This morning, the Ohio Senate passed a bill which changes the open meetings law and the date of the primary election. I expect the House to act quickly on this legislation in their session at 3:00 this afternoon and that it will be signed as is by the Governor today or tomorrow.
The primary will now be ALL MAIL ballots and ballots must be postmarked by April 28. All voters will receive a postcard instructing them how to receive a ballot.
On open meetings, the bill allows teleconference or videoconference meetings as long as public notice is given and a mechanism is provided to allow public access to the meeting. The open meetings amendment follows:
“Section 1. (A) As used in this section: “Hearing” means an administrative hearing, hearing as defined in section 119.01 of the Revised Code, or other hearing at which a person may present written or oral testimony on a matter before the public body. “Public body” and “meeting” have the meanings defined in section 121.22 of the Revised Code.
(B) During the period of the emergency declared by Executive Order 2020-01D, issued on March 9, 2020, but not beyond December 1, 2020, if the period of the emergency continues beyond that date, members of a public body may hold and attend meetings and may conduct and attend hearings by means of teleconference, video conference, or any other similar electronic technology and all of the following apply:
(1) Any resolution, rule, or formal action of any kind shall have the same effect as if it had occurred during an open meeting or hearing of the public body.
(2) Notwithstanding division (C) of section 121.22 of the Revised Code, members of a public body who attend meetings or hearings by means of teleconference, video conference, or any other similar electronic technology, shall be considered present as if in person at the meeting or hearing, shall be permitted to vote, and shall be counted for purposes of determining whether a quorum is present at the meeting or hearing.
(3) Public bodies shall provide notification of meetings and hearings held under this section to the public, to the media that have requested notification of a meeting, and to the parties required to be notified of a hearing, at least twenty-four hours in advance of the meeting or hearing by reasonable methods by which any person may determine the time, location, and the manner by which the meeting or hearing will be conducted, except in the event of an emergency requiring immediate official action. In the event of an emergency, the public body shall immediately notify the news media that have requested notification or the parties required to be notified of a hearing of the time, place, and purpose of the meeting or hearing.
(4) The public body shall provide the public access to a meeting held under this section, and to any hearing held under this section that the public would otherwise be entitled to attend, commensurate with the method in which the meeting or hearing is being conducted, including, but not limited to, examples such as live-streaming by means of the internet, local radio, television, cable, or public access channels, call in information for a teleconference, or by means of any other similar electronic technology. The public body shall ensure that the public can observe and hear the discussions and deliberations of all the members of the public body, whether the member is participating in person or electronically.
(C) When members of a public body conduct a hearing by means of teleconference, video conference, or any other similar electronic technology, the public body must establish a means, through the use of electronic equipment that is widely available to the general public, to converse with witnesses, and to receive documentary testimony and physical evidence.
(D) The authority granted in this section applies notwithstanding any conflicting provision of the Revised Code. Nothing in this section shall be construed to negate any provision of section 121.22 of the Revised Code, Chapter 119. of the Revised Code, or other section of the Revised Code that is not in conflict with this section.
(E) This section is effective during the period of the emergency declared by Executive Order 2020-01D, issued on March 9, 2020, or until December 1, 2020, if the period of the emergency continues beyond that date.”
Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions or concerns.