New law allows virtual meetings to continue through 2020, virtual participation for limited reasons in 2021
Townships, along with all public bodies, will be allowed to conduct electronic “virtual” meetings as soon as recently passed legislation is enacted. Gov. Whitmer signed Public Act 228 of 2020, sponsored by Sen. Lana Theis, (R-Brighton Chtr. Twp.), which amends the Open Meetings Act (OMA) to allow for electronic meetings under specific circumstances and for a limited period. The law was critical to ensure meetings held electronically since March 18, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic are valid and allows public bodies to continue to hold meetings via this option through the end of this year. PA 228 deems electronic meetings that took place since March 18, 2020, are valid if the public body complied with the requirements contained in the law and permits these virtual meetings to continue until Dec. 31, 2020, for any circumstance. Beginning Jan. 1, 2021 through Dec. 31, 2021, only, any member of a public body would be permitted to meet electronically due to the following: military duty (current law); medical condition defined as an illness, injury, disability, or other health-related condition; or statewide or local state of emergency or state of disaster declared that would risk the personal health/safety of the public or members of the public body. Additionally, the law requires any member of the public body—other than a member participating remotely due to military duty—attending a public meeting remotely after Dec. 31, 2020, to declare, and be included in the meeting minutes, that the member is attending remotely and the physical location (county, municipality, and state) from which they are participating remotely.
State Supreme Court rules governor's executive orders 'of no continuing legal effect'; MDHHS issues REVISED emergency order—restores capacity restrictions, face covering requirements for government offices, businesses, and more
On Oct. 12, the state Supreme Court rejected Gov. Whitmer's request to delay its earlier ruling that effectively nullified her previous pandemic-related executive orders. In its most recent ruling, the court said that the governor's EOs are "of no continuing legal effect." The governor had initially said her orders remained in effect for 21 days to 28 days and asked the state's highest court to clarify.
However, a revised "Gathering Prohibition and Face Covering Order" emergency order was issued on Oct. 9 under MCL 333.2253, by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) that requires government offices, as well as businesses, schools and other operations to prohibit indoor gatherings of any kind unless they require those individuals, including employees, to wear face coverings. Compared to MDHHS's initial emergency order, new provisions also provide for capacity limits in businesses, as well as libraries and museums, added protections for workers, and requirements for contact tracing. Note that Region 6, encompassing 17 northern Michigan counties, are exempt from certain requirements in the order. Read more about the order, which has the force of law, here. MTA will continue to provide members with the latest on the evolving changes.