Rep. Perry Warren Looks Toward State Bill That Would Allow Online Public Meetings Even After #COVID19 | Newtown News of Interest |

One of the earliest challenges for local governments during the coronavirus pandemic was holding open public meetings while maintaining social distancing.


Rep. Perry Warren, D-31, said this week that legislative rules allowing online meetings are still a concern for local officials in his district even after nearly a year of grappling with the issue.


Warren, a Newtown Borough resident, said in-person public meetings seem to be the preference among local officials here, but that might not mean remote meetings have to leave with the pandemic.


"The question will remain, given the technology ... will we be looking at local governments changing their methods of meetings? ... That's something we're going to have to talk about, both at the legislative level and with our borough councils and township boards of supervisors," Warren added.


Under state law, public meetings require a majority of a governing body be physically present in order to vote on any business before the board.


Emergency legislative rules gave municipalities leeway to hold online meetings during the disaster proclamation first signed by Gov. Tom Wolf on March 6, 2020. The 90-day disaster declaration has been renewed multiple times, most recently on Feb. 19.


Warren was recently appointed the minority chair of the House Local Government Committee's Subcommittee on Boroughs, a body that reviews the impact of local governance bills.


In addition to federal and state COVID-19 relief bills, Warren said he expects the 2021-2022 legislative session in the General Assembly to see legislation on online meetings and other pandemic policies that might work better than pre-pandemic rules.