According to meeting requirements in the state’s Open Meeting Law, government access advocacy organizations and MetroWest lawmakers favour continuous virtual access to government operations after July 15, when remote access to public government meetings is no longer needed.
According to Geoff Foster, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts, remote access to public government bodies was “a huge success” that “removed long-standing barriers” and led to an “increase in public participation.”
“Where we were initially worried about how government would continue to function and how we could maintain the same level of transparency and access, the virtual and remote participation was a huge win.”Geoff Foster, Executive Director, Common Cause Massachusetts
Many areas of state government were excluded from the recent update to the Open Meeting Law, including the Legislature and its committees, the judiciary, and entities appointed by a constitutional official such as the governor whose primary role is to give advise.
“The only thing that has improved was that things went virtual. Prior to that, there were always these roadblocks that were put up so the public couldn’t weigh in.”Paul Craney, Spokesperson, Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance
Remote access, according to advocates and politicians, has enhanced equity and access, particularly for individuals who previously faced hurdles.
Many Massachusetts people, including individuals with disabilities, family caregivers, and those without access to a functional vehicle, have difficulty physically going to government meetings, particularly those held at the State House.
“It’s not just about government accountability, it’s also about equity and fairness in making sure that all citizens — regardless of their circumstances — have an opportunity to engage with government and see how their officials are acting on their behalf.”Justin Silverman, Executive Director, New England First Amendment Coalition
Remote access to state government may not be going away soon. Senate President Karen Spilka, D-Ashland, Rep. Jack Lewis, D-Framingham, and Hogan showed their support for the continuation of virtual access to the Legislature.
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