Del. Bill Would Expand Virtual Meeting Option

Delaware cities and towns, boards of education, commissions and other public bodies would have the option of conducting their meetings virtually beyond the COVID-19 State of Emergency, under a bill approved in the State Senate.

Rules would also be established to ensure that online meetings are in compliance with the Delaware Freedom of Information Act, according to the sponsor of SB 94, Senator Stephanie Hansen D-Middletown.

“We’ve all seen how virtual meetings can vastly expand public access and public participation over the last 14 months,” Hansen said. “The reality is people are far more likely to attend public meetings if they can participate from the safety and comfort of their own homes. Here in the Senate, we’ve also seen how public bodies can advance the public good while meeting virtually. This legislation will help ensure that the expanded civic engagement and public accessibility we’ve seen during the pandemic can continue long after the current health crisis has ended.” 

Legislation that was signed in July 2020 allows public bodies to meet and conduct business virtually during a state of emergency.
Its provisions would expire June 30th without action this year from the General Assembly.

“We support any legislation that makes local government more accessible to the people we serve,” Bethany Beach Vice Mayor Lew Killmer, President of the Delaware League of Local Governments, said in a statement. “Virtual meetings have been a highly effective tool during the pandemic.  This bill will give Delaware municipalities the flexibility they need to address online meetings without creating an undue burden.” 

This bill moves to the House for consideration.