MACD Urges Michigan Legislature to Extend Open Meetings Act Amendments Allowing Remote Participation

MACD Urges Michigan Legislature to Extend Open Meetings Act Amendments Allowing Remote Participation  

The Michigan Association of Conservation Districts urges the Michigan Legislature to extend the amendments to the Open Meetings Act, allowing remote/digital participation to continue indefinitely as outlined in House Bill 4371 introduced by Rep. Cara Clemente.

Conservation Districts are unique local units of government that are the local providers of natural resource management services; utilizing state, federal, and private sector resources to solve today’s conservation challenges. In order to be held accountable by the voting public, as local units of government we are legally required to adhere to the Open Meetings Act.

Currently, only 14.8% of Michigan’s adult population have been vaccinated, and with the new U.K. variant of COVID being discovered in Michigan, per MDHHS reporting, the risk for vulnerable populations contracting the COVID-19 virus remains. A significant portion of MACD membership are retirees, over the age of 55, who volunteer their time in service to their communities on their local Conservation District Board of Directors. Many have expressed to us their serious concerns with the pending expiration of the OMA amendments, and if the legislature fails to extend the allowance of remote meeting participation, thus requiring them to meet in person, the Michigan Legislature will be needlessly endangering the lives of public servants.

In addition, MACD strongly encourages the Michigan Legislature to consider making these amendments to the Open Meetings Act permanent. Some of our membership in larger, multi-county Districts, as well as districts with dense populations and highway traffic issues; expressed that requiring in person meetings is a barrier for recruiting new leaders within their community to serve on their boards. In some cases, such as the Chippewa Luce Mackinac Conservation District in the Upper Peninsula, their Directors have to drive at least 45 minutes one way to get to their central meeting location. Permanently allowing public bodies to meet remotely, will enable them to select from a larger candidate pool when developing local leadership.

Lastly, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a paradigm shifting crisis for the entire world. As a society, we've collectively learned that many organizations, businesses, and governments can effectively function remotely; and in many cases function more efficiently. Moreover, this paradigm shift to remote meetings has actually made public meetings more accessible for Michiganders with physical disabilities or transportation barriers that would otherwise prevent them from attending in-person public meetings.

We are aware there is a strong desire to return to pre-pandemic normalcy in Michigan, but we cannot do so at the expense of the health and well-being of Michigan’s public servants. Thus, MACD and our membership across the state, strongly urges the Michigan Legislature to immediately pass HB 4371 to indefinitely extend the amendments to the Open Meetings Act before it expires at the end of the month.

Share this post:

Comments on "MACD Urges Michigan Legislature to Extend Open Meetings Act Amendments Allowing Remote Participation"

Comments 0-5 of 0

Please login to comment