Sunrise over V.A. Capitol.

July 7, 2004

The Electronic Meetings and Notice Subcommittee held its second meeting on Wednesday, July 7, 2004 at 2:00 p.m. The meeting was held pursuant to the audio/visual meeting provisions of Chapter 704 of the Acts of Assembly of 1997 (as amended) ("the Pilot Project"). Subcommittee member David Hallock attended the meeting at the Richmond location, and subcommittee member Wat Hopkins participated in the meeting remotely from Virginia Tech via an audio/visual connection.1 Nine members of the public attended the meeting at the Richmond location, and one member of the public attended the meeting at the remote location.

The subcommittee reviewed a draft legislative proposal that included electronic meeting and notice changes discussed at the first meeting. The draft would amend § 2.2-3707 of the Code of Virginia so as to require state public bodies in the executive branch of government to post notice of their meetings on the Internet. The subcommittee discussed whether it might be better to require all state public bodies, which would include public bodies in the legislative and judicial branch of government, to post notice on the Internet. Both subcommittee members present voted to recommend that the Internet notice be required of all public bodies, but directed staff to research whether such a requirement would have unintended consequences for the judicial branch.

The subcommittee next addressed proposed changes to § 2.2-3708 relating to electronic meetings. The draft would have shortened the notice required for electronic meetings from 30 days to seven days, to parallel the notice required by the Pilot Project. A representative of Senate Clerk's office stated that seven days was a good compromise, while representatives of the press and access groups expressed concern that seven days was not enough notice for electronic meetings. Both subcommittee members present voted to recommend that the notice for electronic meetings be changed to seven working days, as opposed to the calendar days presented in the draft.

Other issues were also addressed in the draft, such as eliminating the limitation that a public body may only hold 25 percent of its meetings each year via electronic means. This led to a discussion amongst the subcommittee members and the members of the public as to whether electronic meetings were a positive thing for which access should be made easier or whether more restrictive provisions concerning electronic meetings should be retained. It was noted that the Pilot Program, which contains less restrictive elements, was set to sunset in July, 2005 and must be addressed by the 2005 Session of the General Assembly if it is to continue. It was also noted the Joint Commission on Technology and Science (JCOTS) had indicated that it would review the electronic meeting provisions and make recommendations concerning the Pilot Project. In light of JCOTS' involvement, the subcommittee decided that it would like to meet with representatives of JCOTS before deciding what further changes it would recommend concerning electronic meetings, so as to hopefully reach an agreement with JCOTS and not present conflicting legislation at the 2005 Session.

Finally, the issue of making electronic public access more widely available through the use of public-access dial-in numbers to listen to meetings was discussed at the first meeting. The subcommittee requested that a representative from the House Clerks Office report on the feasibility and costs of this idea at the next full FOIA Council meeting on September 16, 2004.

The meeting was adjourned. The next meeting date was not set, and staff will consult with JCOTS to arrange a meeting between the subcommittee and JCOTS representatives.

1Subcommittee member E.M. Miller was not present at the subcommittee meeting.