Recently, we have received a number of questions from public bodies asking if they can conduct a meeting entirely remotely in order to protect members of the public body and members of the public from unsafe weather conditions (below zero temperatures and windchills, snow, ice, etc.) or other circumstances that affect the health and safety of persons attending the meeting (building temperature, broken pipes, etc.). Currently, the OMA does not currently provide a fully remote option for meetings except when the Governor or IDPH has issued a disaster declaration related to public health. The OMA does provide options for certain members to attend remotely for specific statutory reasons but a physical quorum of the public body must still be present at the meeting.
Various bills have been introduced over the past couple of years to expand the remote meeting provision in OMA beyond a public health disaster although none of those bills have been enacted. One of those bills is House Bill 1408, which would allow a public body to conduct a remote meeting if the chief elected or appointed official of the public body determines that an in-person meeting would pose a high risk to the health or safety of members of the public body or public and that a remote meeting is in the best interests of the public body. The bill would make a few other changes to the OMA regarding the opportunity for public comment and certain notice requirements for these expanded remote meetings.
The bill is still in committee so it is not clear whether it will have any movement this legislative session but we will monitor it and similar bills.