Social Media and Sunshine Laws

In a move that acknowledges that “online tools of communication are not going away”  Minnesota officials are considering a move to permit local officials to use social media for public debate, without violating the State’s open meeting rules.  According to Open Meeting (or Sunshine) Laws, governmental officials may not conduct business in private.  These laws require government bodies to hold meetings with sufficient notice and at times and places that are accessible and open to the public.  So how does this reconcile with on-line debates held through Twitter, Facebook or other social Media forum?

Representative Duane Quam, (R-D25) introduced H.F. No. 653 which would add to the list of exceptions to Minnesota’s Open Meetings Law by allowing participation in social media forums, whether or not a quoraum of thepubic body is participating.  The bill makes clear that votes may not be taken and meetings may not be held via a technological platform.

The proposed legislation is among the first to acknowledge the growing presence of and reliance on social media as a means of communication and public debate for local government issues.  Does passage of the bill suggest a tacit acknowledgment that on-line discourse is an acceptable replacement for the village green?

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