ANALYSIS: Updates to Open Meeting Laws (S.55)

The General Assembly passed S.55, which updates Vermont's Open Meeting Law. It requires public bodies to be transparent about their deliberations and decisions, and to use standard rules and best practices for both meeting format and method of delivery.

The Details:

The bill specifies that a public body may hold a hybrid meeting, which includes both a designated physical meeting location and a designated electronic meeting platform. These hybrid meetings may be for the purpose of discussing regular business or taking action. Non-advisory public bodies must electronically record all meetings and retain the audiovisual recording and post the recording in a designated electronic location. This is intended to provide a forum for public comment on a proposed rule, law, or recommendation.

A resident of the geographic area in which the public body has jurisdiction may request that the public body designate a physical meeting location or provide electronic or telephonic access to a regular (in-person) meeting. The public body shall grant the request unless there is hazardous event or a physical location is unexpectedly unavailable. Public bodies may avoid these requirements, but would have the burden of proving that compliance with this subchapter would impose an undue hardship on the body. Communications Union Districts and State level non-advisory public bodies are not be required to designate a physical meeting location for regular and special meetings.

A Working Group on Participation and Accessibility of Municipal Public Meetings and Elections will be formed to study and make recommendations to improve the accessibility of and participation in meetings of local public bodies, annual municipal meetings, and local elections, and increase transparency, accountability, and trust in government. The group will also report on the findings of the Civic Health Index Study and how to reduce barriers to participation in public service, produce a guide for accessibility for polling and public meeting locations, and analyze voter turnout and the voting methods currently used throughout the State. The Working Group would have administrative, technical, and legal assistance from the Secretary of State's office and consult with relevant stakeholders prior to submitting a report to the House and Senate committees on government operations.

The Good:

  • The Working Group will looking at furthering access and participation in the democratic process. This will hopefully lead to greater engagement with state and local governments.
  • Sets a framework for public meetings that caters to accessibility.

The Bad:

  • Exempts statewide decision-making bodies


It is unclear why state level non-advisory public bodies are exempt from the requirements this bill. This could be a roundabout way of exempting the Legislature without explicitly saying it. This seems like an area requiring further analysis.


Current Status:

The bill has been passed by both the House and Senate and is pending the Governor's signature.


CFV coverage on S.55

Read the Bill

More bill summaries

Last updated: 5/23/2024

DISCLAIMER: Generative AI used to assist in the production of this report.

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