Public meetings can be notified online

ALBANY -- A small change was made this month to the state's open meetings law, allowing municipalities to advise their public meetings online.

The tweak is aimed at making state law explicitly note that public meetings' notices can be "electronically transmitted," the bill signed last week by Gov. Andrew Cuomo states.

“Providing municipalities and schools the ability to send public notice of meetings electronically to news media is a common sense way to make such important public notices easily accessible and available to the public," said Sen. Kathy Marchione, R-Halfmoon, Saratoga County, in a statement.

Marchione and Assemblywoman Sandra Galef, D-Ossining, Westchester County, sponsored the bill.

The words "electronically transmitted" were added to a section of the state's Open Meetings law that require notice of a public body's meetings to the news media at least seven days in advance.

The existing law also requires the notice to be "conspicuously posted" in one or more designated public locations at least 72 hours before the meetings.

Additionally, the law was expanded to require public notification of a web address if a meeting will be live streamed over the internet.

"This legislation gives explicit allowance to local governments to transmit notices of public meetings to news outlets via electronic means,” Galef said in a statement.

Robert Freeman, executive director of the state Committee on Open Government, said the changes are of little consequence.

He said the open meetings law already encourages use of the internet by municipalities to notify the media and the public of events.

"In my opinion, it is window dressing that adds a provision which currently enables boards to give notice of their meetings online," Freeman said. "This merely specifies what is now implicit."

Still, some local government groups praised the change.

"This is a positive step that will save time in getting notices to the media and therefore getting them out to the public,” Linda Gilbert, president of the state Town Clerks Association, said in a statement through Marchione's office.


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