Skip to content

I. Statute - basic application

Posts

  • Alaska

    Alaska's Open Meetings Act (OMA) was enacted in 1959 as part of the Administrative Procedures Act adopted by the first legislature after statehood. A.S. 44.62.310. Its broad language was a comprehensive mandate that meetings of public agencies be open to the public. In 1972, the legislature bolstered the OMA by adding to it a strong statement of purpose, AS 44.62.312, as follows:

    AS 44.62.312. State policy regarding meetings.

    (a) It is the policy of the state that

    (1) the governmental units mentioned in AS 44.62.310(a) exist to aid in the conduct of the people's business;

    (2) it is the intent of the law that actions of those units be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly;

    (3) the people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them;

    (4) the people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know;

    (5) the people's right to remain informed shall be protected so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.

    * * * *

    (b) AS 44.62.310(c)(1) shall be construed narrowly in order to effectuate the policy stated in (a) of this section and avoid unnecessary executive sessions.

    The Alaska Supreme Court has liberally construed the OMA, in order to give full effect to the letter and spirit of the law. The legislature amended the OMA in 1994 in several significant respects. Chief among these were a definition of the previously undefined term "meeting." A few of the amendments weakened the force of the Act, e.g., by making it less likely that violations will be remedied, or reducing the law's application to advisory groups. Most clarified or codified existing interpretations of the OMA. The legislature also generally reaffirmed the commitment to a strong right of public access to the affairs of government by revising and strengthening the final subsection of the statute to read: "AS 44.62.310(c) [the provision governing executive sessions] and (d) [the subsection defining what gatherings are exempt from coverage of the OMA altogether] shall be construed narrowly in order to effectuate the policy [statement of the Open Meetings Act] and to avoid exemptions from open meetings requirements and unnecessary executive sessions."

    view more
  • Arizona

    (This section is blank. See the subpoints below.)

    view more
  • Arkansas

    (This section is blank. See the subpoints below.)

    view more
  • Colorado

    The declared policy behind the Sunshine Law is that "the formation of public policy is public business and may not be conducted in secret." Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-6-401. The Colorado Act was modeled after the Florida Government in the Sunshine Law. The same policy has been held to underlie the local agency open meetings law. Bagby v. School District No. 1, 106 Colo. 428, 528 P.2d 1299 (1974).

    view more
  • Connecticut

    (This section is blank. See the subpoints below.)

    view more
  • Georgia

    Georgia’s Open Meetings Act was first enacted in 1972 and, like the Open Records Act, was substantially revised in 2012.  Georgia courts have recognized “that openness in sensitive proceedings is sometimes unpleasant, difficult, and occasionally harmful. Nevertheless, the policy of this state is that the public's business must be open, not only to protect against potential abuse, but also to maintain the public's confidence in its officials.”  Red & Black Pub. Co. v. Bd. of Regents, 262 Ga. 848, 854, 427 S.E.2d 257, 263 (1993)

    view more
  • Hawaii

    The Hawaii Sunshine Law intends "to protect the people's right to know." Haw. Rev. Stat. § 92-1 (1996). It protects the public's right to know when government bodies meet, to be informed in advance of what business they intend to conduct, to attend these meetings, and to obtain their minutes within a reasonable period. Like the UIPA with its presumption of public access to government records, id. § 92F-11(a) (1996), the Sunshine Law presumes that the public may attend and participate in any meeting of government. Id. § 92-3 (1996).

    Like the more recently adopted UIPA, see id. § 92F-1 (1996), the Sunshine Law recognizes that "[o]pening up the governmental processes to public scrutiny and participation is the only viable and reasonable method of protecting the public's interest," id. § 92-1. The Sunshine Law's declaration of policy and intent adds, "[I]t is the policy of this State that the formation and conduct of public policy — the discussions, deliberations, decisions, and action of government agencies — shall be conducted as openly as possible." Id. § 92-1.

    While the Sunshine Law previously contained statutory provisions affording public access to government records, id. §§ 92-50 to 92-52 (repealed), the UIPA repealed and replaced these sections, Act 262, § 3, 14th Leg., Reg. Sess. (1988), reprinted in 1988 Haw. Sess. Laws 473, 482. Significant areas of overlap remain, however, between the Sunshine Law and the UIPA as well as some areas where the uncertain interaction of the UIPA and Sunshine Law tends to leave the law less than clearly defined. For example, the Sunshine Law more narrowly defines the entities to which its provisions apply than does the UIPA; under the Sunshine Law's definition of "board," it is possible to have an entity whose meetings need not be open to the public, Haw. Rev. Stat. § 92-9 (1996), but whose records, under the UIPA's broader definition of "agency," must be made available to the public. Id. § 92F-11.

    Just as the UIPA defines certain circumstances that may exempt an entity from complying with the UIPA's overriding presumption of public access to records, the Sunshine Law allows government bodies to hold executive sessions and emergency meetings that may be closed to the public.

    view more
  • Idaho

    Idaho’s Open Meeting Law is set forth in Idaho Code §§ 74-201 through 74-208. The Open Meeting Law was originally enacted in 1974 and has been amended on several occasions since that time. The legislature’s statement of purpose included with the 1974 enactment of the Law contains broad language saying that it is the “policy of this state that the formation of public policy is public business and shall not be conducted in secret.” Idaho Code § 74-201.

    view more
  • Kentucky

    Kentucky’s Open Meetings Act applies to all public agencies in local and state government. The Act’s “basic policy” is “that the formation of public policy is public business and shall not be conducted in secret and the exceptions provided for by [Ky. Rev. Stat.] 61.810 or otherwise provided for by law shall be strictly construed.” Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.800.

    view more
  • Michigan

    Unlike Michigan's Freedom of Information Act, which complements existing laws, the Open Meetings Act ("OMA"), Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.261, et seq., was, in part, intended to resolve conflicting provisions of law and expressly provides that it "shall supersede all local charter provisions, ordinances, or resolutions which relate to requirements for meetings of local public bodies to be open to the public." Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.261(2). The purpose of the OMA "is to promote openness and accountability in government; it is therefore to be interpreted broadly to accomplish this goal. Because the OMA is interpreted liberally in favor of openness, we construe the closed-session exceptions strictly to limit the situations that are not open to the public. The burden of establishing that a meeting is exempt from the OMA is on [the]defendant." Booth Newspapers Inc. v. University of Michigan Board of Regents, 192 Mich. App. 574, 481 N.W.2d 778, 782 (1992).

    view more
  • Missouri

    Missouri law on open meetings is governed by the Open Meetings Act, Mo.Rev.Stat. § 610.010-.030 (“Sunshine Law”), the same statute governing access to public records.

    view more
  • Montana

    As indicated in the preface, Montana has a constitutional provision guaranteeing all persons the right to observe the deliberations of public bodies. Montana's "sunshine" statute, initially adopted in 1963, was amended in 1975 to conform to the new constitutional provision. Mont. Code Ann. §§ 2-3-201 to 221.
    Taken together, the Montana constitutional and statutory provisions guarantee every citizen the right to observe the deliberations of all public bodies or agencies of state government, except in cases in which the demand of individual privacy clearly exceeds the merits of public disclosure.

    view more
  • North Dakota

    North Dakota law provides that all public meetings are open meetings unless there is a specific statutory exemption of a particular type of meeting. The North Dakota Constitution provides:

    Unless otherwise provided by law, all meetings of public or governmental bodies, boards, bureaus, commissions, or agencies of the state or any political subdivision of the state, or organizations or agencies supported in whole or in part by public funds, or expending public funds, shall be open to the public.

    North Dakota Constitution, Article XI, Section 5.

    The North Dakota open meetings law provides, “Except as otherwise specifically provided by law, all meetings of a public entity must be open to the public.” N.D.C.C. § 44-04-19. Additionally, unless otherwise specifically provided by law, all votes of whatever kind taken at any public meeting must be open, public votes, and all nonprocedural votes must be recorded roll call votes, with the votes of each member being made public at the open meeting. N.D.C.C. § 44-04-21. Minutes must be kept of all open meetings and are open records. N.D.C.C. § 44-04-21.

    The law is simple: Unless there is a specific exemption, meetings are open to the public.

    view more
  • South Dakota

    South Dakota rewrote the bulk of its open meetings law, SDCL Chapter 1-25, in 1980.  The general statute, SDCL §1-25-1, below, has been amended a handful of times.

    1-25-1.   Official meetings open to the public--Exceptions--Teleconferences--Violation as misdemeanor.

     

    The official meetings of the state, its political subdivisions, and any public body of the state or its political subdivisions are open to the public unless a specific law is cited by the state, the political subdivision, or the public body to close the official meeting to the public. For the purposes of this section, a political subdivision or a public body of a political subdivision means any association, authority, board, commission, committee, council, task force, school district, county, city, town, township, or other agency of the state, which is created or appointed by statute, ordinance, or resolution and is vested with the authority to exercise any sovereign power derived from state law. For the purposes of this section, an official meeting is any meeting of a quorum of a public body at which official business of that public body is discussed or decided, or public policy is formulated, whether in person or by means of teleconference.

    It is not an official meeting of one political subdivision or public body if its members provide information or attend the official meeting of another political subdivision or public body for which the notice requirements of § 1-25-1.1 have been met.

    Any official meeting may be conducted by teleconference as defined in § 1-25-1.2. A teleconference may be used to conduct a hearing or take final disposition regarding an administrative rule pursuant to § 1-26-4. A member is deemed present if the member answers present to the roll call conducted by teleconference for the purpose of determining a quorum. Each vote at an official meeting held by teleconference shall be taken by roll call.

    If the state, a political subdivision, or a public body conducts an official meeting by teleconference, the state, the political subdivision, or public body shall provide one or more places at which the public may listen to and participate in the teleconference meeting. For any official meeting held by teleconference, which has less than a quorum of the members of the public body participating in the meeting who are present at the location open to the public, arrangements shall be provided for the public to listen to the meeting via telephone or internet. The requirement to provide one or more places for the public to listen to the teleconference does not apply to an executive or closed meeting.

    If a quorum of township supervisors, road district trustees, or trustees for a municipality of the third class meet solely for purposes of implementing previously publicly-adopted policy, carrying out ministerial functions of that township, district, or municipality, or undertaking a factual investigation of conditions related to public safety, the meeting is not subject to the provisions of this chapter.

    A violation of this section is a Class 2 misdemeanor.

    view more
  • Tennessee

    The Tennessee Open Meetings Law (the "Act") requires that all meetings of any governing body be open to the public at all times, except as provided by the Tennessee Constitution. The Open Meetings Act does not prescribe when governing bodies must conduct meetings. Instead, it defines when meetings must be open to the public. Griffin v. Traughber, 1996 Tenn. App. LEXIS 382, * 15.

    view more
  • West Virginia

    Generally speaking, the coverage provisions of the Act are written in broad terms consistent with the Legislature's intent to give all members of the public as much access as possible to meetings held by their governmental representatives. To provide this expansive coverage, the Legislature has chosen general language as opposed to specific language naming each public agency subject to the provisions of the Open Meetings Act.

    The general term "public agency," for example, is used to cover practically any governmental agency or council. Therefore, in the following discussion concerning the Act's application, the conclusions reached usually are based upon the fact the particular agency, person, or level of government falls within the broad language of the statute. Where a specific provision in the Open Meetings Act addresses a particular situation, it will be noted.

    view more