Hanbidge legislation seeks to permanently improve remote meetings during emergency declarations

HARRISBURG, June 22 – State Rep. Liz Hanbidge, D-Montgomery, has prepared two pieces of legislation aimed at improving local governance during declarations of emergency or disaster by the governor of Pennsylvania.

One bill would add public participation requirements when municipal officials meet remotely, and the other bill would suspend time frames for consideration of applications filed with municipal boards and commissions during emergency or disaster declarations.

“As this COVID-19 pandemic has taught us, it’s critical to be able to adjust during emergency situations but also continue proper governance,” Hanbidge said. “This legislation helps ensure that our municipalities are better prepared for any future emergencies or disasters that require the utilization of remote meeting provisions in statute.”

The public participation requirement legislation would amend Act 15 of 2020, which provided that during a declared disaster or emergency, a governing body does not need to be physically present at any one location in order to conduct business if a quorum is otherwise established through authorized telecommunication. The legislation would make permanent for all disaster or emergency declarations the requirement of advance notice and public participation.

Act 15 of 2020 also provided a mechanism for municipalities to utilize – but only during the COVID-19 declaration – the suspension of time frames for considering applications filed with municipal boards and commissions. Hanbidge’s legislation would amend this to make this provision permanent during any emergency or disaster declarations.