Open meeting changes for teleconferencing amended, advanced

Lawmakers advanced a bill from general file April 3 intended to use technology to create more efficient and transparent government public meetings.

LB212, introduced by the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, would apply to organizations created under the Interlocal Cooperation Act that sell electricity or natural gas at wholesale on a multi-state basis, organizations created under the Municipal Cooperative Financing Act and risk management pools.

The bill would allow those organizations to designate a nonvoting individual, not included as part of the quorum, to be present at a site where a public hearing is being held to keep the site open for members of the public who wish to attend the public hearing by telephone conference or videoconference.

The bill also would allow qualified entities to hold more than 50 percent of their meetings by telephone or videoconferencing as long as at least one meeting in not held in that manner.

Finally, LB212 would extend the allowed length of a telephone conference call from two hours to no more than five hours.

Gordon Sen. Tom Brewer, chairperson of the committee, said the changes would improve the public meeting process for entities covered by the bill.

“[It] makes it easier for the government bodies to do their work that they’re assigned and provides transparency for these public meetings,” Brewer said.

A Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee amendment, adopted 34-0, added provisions of two additional bills.

Provisions of LB191, introduced by Gretna Sen. Andrew La Grone, would harmonize bond definitions and delete obsolete language regarding financial instruments approved and agreed to prior to July 1, 1999. The provisions would limit to one year the period for which a governmental unit may exceed the allowable growth percentage if approved by voters at a meeting.

The provisions also would change the publication requirement prior to a budget hearing from five calendar days to four and define such days to include the day of publication but not the day of the hearing.

Provisions from LB239, introduced by Adams Sen. Myron Dorn, would amend the County Budget Act to mirror the four-day notice language in the Nebraska Budget Act.

Following rejection of an amendment offered by Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers that would have gutted LB212 and replaced it with provisions of another proposal, senators advanced the bill to select file on a 34-0 vote.

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