The New Hampshire House sent the state Senate a bill on Wednesday aimed at balancing the public’s right to government access while still giving officials freedom as well.
Efforts to pass versions of the bill have been going back and forth for years. Two previous attempts have failed due to the discrepancy over what type of communication officials can have outside authorized meetings.
From past attempts, lawmakers have all agreed that in small towns with only three selectmen, whenever two talk or meet, they make up a majority and that communication needs to be monitored.
In the new age of technology though, with accessibility to e-mail, cell phones and text messages, it has been a struggle to find a balance. The new bill aims to make it possible for these small town boards to communicate and get their work done while keeping the public informed at the same time.
The current bill, being sponsored by state Rep. John Thomas (R), will ban all communication outside of meetings, including sequential communication, that is used to “circumvent the spirit and purpose” of the law.
The bill will recognize however, that while evolving technology cannot be used in privacy amongst officials, it will allow public bodies to use electronic sources to conference when members can’t physically attend.