The Governor signed HB 1329 into law on March 24, 2022, and most of the law took effect immediately. The law revises the Open Public Meetings Act, RCW 42.30. The more important revisions to the OPMA include the following:
Recordings. Agencies are encouraged to stream meetings or to have audio or video recordings and keep them available for six months or longer. This is not a requirement, but rather, an encouragement.
Regular Meeting Notices. Regular meeting notices must be published online at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting. This provision eliminated the exemption that applied to smaller agencies without websites. However, in an effort to aid smaller agencies’ ability to comply, the revisions to the OPMA allow agencies to share a website or to have their website hosted by another public agency.
Special Meeting Notices. Unless there is an emergency, then at least 24 hours in advance, notice must be:
- Given to each member of the governing body
- Given to media outlets that have requested to be notified
- Posted on the agency’s website
- Posted at the main entrance of the agency’s principal location
Physical Location. Meetings must be held at a physical location except when there is a “declared emergency,” as discussed below. Please note that while Proclamation 20-28.15 remains in effect, the governing body is not required to have a physical location, but once this proclamation ceases, a physical location is required.
- Members of the governing body may still attend remotely by phone or electronic means that allow real-time verbal communication where each member of the governing body can hear each other. Thus, an agency could have a situation where the physical location of the meeting is the agency’s office, but all of the members of the governing body attend remotely. In that case, a speakerphone or other device would need to be present at the physical location so that members of the public can hear what the members of the governing body say.
Executive Session. When the governing body goes into executive session, the minutes must identify the purpose for the executive session. The minutes should reflect the reason and the statutory citation.
Public Comment. Unless an emergency exists, public comment at or before the meeting is required if the governing body wants to take final action.
- The agency can still impose reasonable limitations on public comment, e.g., limiting the time which each person can speak, limiting the ability of each person to speak only once, etc.
- The agency can provide for oral comment or written comment prior to the meeting. If written comments are received, they must be distributed to all members of the governing body in advance of the meeting.
- The agency can restrict public comment if it would prevent the orderly conduct of a meeting.
- The agency must try to accommodate a member of the public who requests an accommodation to provide oral comments remotely rather than at the physical location where the meeting is held.
- Recommendation: The agenda and minutes should reflect that public comment period was offered.
Emergency. The revisions now distinguish between two types of emergencies: (i) the traditional kind where loss of life or property damage is imminent, and (ii) “declared” emergencies by federal, state or local governments.
- Emergency involving loss of life or property damage:
- No meeting notice required
- In cases of “declared” emergency where the agency determines that it is not safe to meet together in person, the agency can hold the meeting remotely or limit public attendance with the following caveats:
- 24 hours’ notice required
- Public must be able to listen (telephone, video, cable tv, etc.)
- Notice of the meeting must instruct the public how to attend remotely
This is intended to be a general summary of the revisions to the OPMA. Please call Richard Davis or one of our municipal attorneys at Chmelik, Sitkin & Davis, P.S. if you have any specific questions about the OPMA.