Client Alert: COVID-19 Response – Municipal Law Developments
Late last night the Maine Legislature enacted a bill in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic that affects municipalities in the following ways:
- PART G of the Bill allows municipalities to hold meetings, other than town meetings, by remote participation (i.e. through telephone, streaming, or other technology) as long as:
a. Notice of the meeting is given which must include information about how the public can participate;
b. Each member of the body participating in the public proceeding can hear and speak with each other and the public, and each member of the public “attending” the meeting is able to hear all of the other participants at their various locations;
c. The governmental body must determine that public participation shall be by telephonic, video, electronic or other means; and
d. All votes taken during the public proceeding shall be by roll call vote.
2. PART D of the Bill addresses delayed budget meetings. If an annual municipal budget meeting is delayed because of public health concerns arising from COVID-19, the prior year’s approved budget is deemed the budget for the ensuing year until a final budget is approved and assessors may commit property taxes on the basis of the prior year’s budget;
3. PART D also allows municipal treasurers to disburse money on the authority of a warrant for that purpose if it is seen and signed individually by a majority of the municipal officers outside of a public meeting;
4. PART D-3 addresses elections. Scheduled secret ballot elections may be postponed by municipal officers when nomination papers have already been issued or filed.
5. PART E of the Bill provides that school budget meetings can be delayed subject to certain criteria;
6. PART F extends certain registration expiration dates (motor vehicles, trailers, ATVs, watercraft, and snowmobiles) and dog licenses; and
7. PART F also provides that liquor license renewals are permitted without hearing during the state of emergency.
A copy of the full text of the bill can be found here. Please let our team know if you have any questions about this new law and how to keep municipal business running during the COVID-1 pandemic. As we are sure all of you are finding, municipal governments are playing a significant role in not only keeping town and city business running, but also keeping our communities safe. Please know your hard work is very appreciated and we are here to assist you in emergency management or any of your needs in helping to keep your communities calm and safe in these uncertain times.