MONDAY, Oct. 19 — A bill signed into law last week will allow Lansing City Council meetings to continue virtually after a Michigan Supreme Court ruling led to the cancellation of multiple meetings this month.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed Senate Bill 1108 last week, which again allows public bodies to continue meeting remotely during the pandemic without clashing with open meetings laws. As a result, plans for a return to in-person City Council meetings have once again been postponed.
The next Lansing City Council meeting, on Monday (Oct. 26) will again take place entirely online.
“By allowing for remote meetings, public bodies and residents can continue practicing safe social distancing while also ensuring meetings remain open, accessible and transparent to the public,” Whitmer said Friday.
The news followed a legislative standstill on the Lansing City Council spurred last week by a Michigan Supreme Court ruling that invalidated a series of orders issued by Whitmer, including one that had allowed public bodies to meet virtually to conduct their usual legislative business.
“The setup we had in place was potentially, if not directly, in violation of the Open Meetings Act. The Michigan Supreme Court made it very clear yesterday that local governments could no longer do virtual meetings to satisfy the law,” Council President Peter Spadafore said last week.
Without Whitmer’s order to allow for virtual participation, the state Open Meetings Act didn’t otherwise carry a provision for digital participation. Spadafore said last week’s meeting could have also broken the law by not allowing for in-person public comment, had it continued as planned.
Spadafore had made plans for the City Council to meet in-person for the first time in several months at the City Clerk’s South Washington Election, which allows for more attendees. With the latest legislation, those plans are no longer necessary. Meetings will continue online.