Virginia’s FOIA Act faces challenge over video conferencing

An editorial from the Virginian-Pilot about an attempt to extend a uniquely convenient luxury to more elected officials.

Under current law, state officials have enjoyed wiggle room that their counterparts in municipalities have not: They can participate in meetings by phone or video so long as they comply with certain constraints, such as having a specified number of members physically present at the advertised location.

It’s not, however, widely used. Since 1999, state agencies and boards have held 307 electronic meetings, according to data pulled for the General Assembly’s Joint Commission on Technology and Science.

Still, representatives from state and local agencies lobbied the FOIA Council subcommittee to extend that “wiggle room,” but advocates for government transparency rallied against them and the bid failed.

The Illinois Open Meetings Act legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted. All meetings, whether in person or by video or audio conference, telephone call, electronic means of any sort, where a majority of a quorum of a public body meets to discuss or act on business in any way is open to the public. Updates to Illinois’ FOIA effective this year strengthened that access.

How would your FOIA work benefit or suffer if more meetings in Illinois could be conducted via video conferencing, with public officials dialing in remotely? Share your thoughts in the comments.