Law Update Requires Municipalities to Uphold Greater Transparency With Public Meetings

Tuesday, September 21, 2021
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There are various federal and state legislation that seeks to increase transparency in government affairs and keep residents more informed of the day-to-day business of local government leaders.   Each of the 50 states have some sort of transparency laws in place.   Transparency is critical since it is the government’s obligation to share information with citizens that is needed to make informed decisions.  Without transparency, government officials can’t be held accountable for their conduct of the people’s business. 

Don’t be in the dark about the Sunshine Act

One such law regarding transparency is Pennsylvania’s “Sunshine Act” or open meetings law.  The law requires agencies to deliberate and take official action on their business in an open and public meeting.  Specifically, the meetings must have prior notice which enables the public to attend, comment and participate in the meeting before the agency takes official action on any business.  No longer can public officials conduct public business behind closed doors and without input from the public.

A recent change to the Sunshine Act will provide citizens with more information on what their local governments are up to.  Act 65 of 2021 was signed into law by Governor Wolf on June 30, 2021 and mandates that your local government provide you with an agenda before any public meeting. Before the passage of Act 65, your government was only required to provide citizens with notice of the time and place of any meeting, and did not have disclose any topics that might be discussed at the meeting.  Act 65, which is now in effect, changes this.  Now, governments are required to post a copy of the official agenda on its website, as well as pass out copies of the agenda to those that attend the meetings in person.  While many municipalities have followed this practice for many years, Act 65 will bring all governing bodies into compliance.

Savvy Citizen can help you comply with transparency requirements

If your local laws require you to provide additional information, in advance, to residents regarding meeting agendas, Savvy Citizen is the communication tool that can easily provide this greater transparency.  Savvy Citizen is a notification system that provides a direct communication link from the municipality to the citizen.  Municipalities that use Savvy Citizen can send information directly to their residents on all required meeting notices (including modifications, additions, meeting date/time changes, etc.)  Not only does Savvy Citizen provide a community calendar to track public meetings, but updates can also be sent via an instant notification out to residents.

Knowledge is power - share it with residents

It is often said that “knowledge is power”.  The idea is that having and sharing knowledge is the cornerstone of reputation and honesty.  In local government, this quote rings true.  Sharing information accurately, quickly and directly with your residents helps everyone be more aware of the important issues that communities face.  Local governments can conduct their business knowing their residents are aware of the decisions being made, and are given the opportunity to provide their input on the process.

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