Brown approves telephone, electronic meetings by government agencies
Gov. Kate Brown issued an order Thursday allowing state and local governments to conduct public meetings and hearings by telephone or electronic means during the coronavirus pandemic.
Brown's April 16 order waives in-person requirements for public testimony if comments can be submitted by telephone, electronically or in writing in advance of meetings.
"While the COVID-19 crisis has changed the way we live, work, and operate, we still must ensure that every voice is heard by elected officials and other policymakers and that the critical functions of local government can continue unimpeded," Brown said in her executive order.
In-person meetings can proceed only if steps for social distancing are carried out to ensure the safety of participants.
There is no expiration date on her declaration of emergency.
"While the COVID-19 crisis has changed the way we live, work, and operate, we still must ensure that every voice is heard by elected officials and other policymakers and that the critical functions of local government can continue unimpeded." — Gov. Kate Brown
Brown issued her order as local governments begin to consider their annual budgets. The order for virtual public participation does not change requirements for equal access by people with disabilities.
Many local governments have turned to YouTube or electronic platforms such as Zoom to allow the public to watch or take part in meetings. U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden is set Friday, April 17, to conduct an online statewide town hall meeting.
Under a constitutional amendment that Oregon voters approved in 2012, the governor can call a special session of the Legislature after a declaration of a catastrophic disaster, which includes a public health emergency. Legislators need not be physically present at the Capitol for such a session, which can be called only once for a specific emergency.
The provision was proposed with a likelihood of severe earthquake off the Oregon Coast, but the definition of a disaster also includes a public health emergency.
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