EVANSVILLE, Ind (WEHT)– Tuning into meetings virtually will continue even when the pandemic subsides. Public boards and commissions across Indiana are adopting new meeting criteria thanks to a recently passed state law. It allows elected officials the option to attend meetings electronically with some exceptions. 2020 was the first year public board members and commissioners could dial into public meetings.
“It was critical that the governor allowed us to attend electronically during the heat of the COVID crisis,” Vanderburgh County Commissioner Cheryl Musgrave said this is the only way local government leaders could get anything done last year. “Boards would not be able to function without that ability then.”
The only reason members could legally participate virtually in 2020 is because an emergency order allowed it. Under the old law virtual meetings would end when the emergency declaration expires. Public bodies such as the Vanderburgh County Commission and the Evansville Redevelopment Commission both adopted post-pandemic public meeting plans.
“And it has to match at least the state requirement for public meetings and electronic attendance at public meetings,” said Kelley Coures from the department of metropolitan development.
Government leaders are allowed to continue tuning into meetings online, but there are some regulations.
“If they attend a meeting electronically for two meetings, they must come and attend a meeting in person,” said Coures.
Elected officials will also have to attend at least 50% of their board or commission’s scheduled meetings in person.
“Fifty percent of a board or body of elected officials have to be present in person and another requirement is that you have to be able to see and hear the person attending electronically so that I think is a great help is that you don’t just have a voice on the phone,” Musgrave explained all elected leaders must be at meetings in person when voting on something that could impact taxpayer’s wallets. “Passing a budget and raising taxes and raising fees those are important actions and your physical presence really is required when you’re taking critical actions like this.”
This allows community members the chance to ask their elected officials questions face to face.