Governor Bill Lee orders local governments to resume in-person meetings
MEMPHIS, Tennessee (WMC) – Virtual meetings have become the norm for everyone during the COVID-19 pandemic, but Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee is forcing local governments to get back to work in person. Lee will not renew his executive order allowing virtual meetings of local elected officials, allowing it to expire on June 30.
You might be wondering why meeting in person is important, and transparency is at the heart of it. Memphis City Council in particular has had issues in recent weeks with Internet feeds to meetings cut off, preventing the public and media from listening to the meetings in real time.
The Tennessee Comptroller’s Office on Tuesday sent a notice to local governments telling them effective July 1 that governing bodies must resume holding meetings under the Tennessee Open Meetings Act, requiring their physical presence to vote.
Shelby County Commission Chairman Mark Billingsley said on Wednesday the body was ready to return to face-to-face meetings and plexiglass was installed in the main committee chamber to separate the commissioners and other staff . Members of the media and the public will be allowed into the meeting and kept at a social distance.
The commission held a handful of meetings during the pandemic in person to deal with the county budget.
Memphis City Council Chairman Patrice Robinson told WMC Action News 5 that his group is still working to determine a place where they can physically meet. The upstairs bedroom is too small for adequate social distancing and the downstairs bedroom is unavailable due to an existing renovation.
The next scheduled meetings of the two bodies will be in person, with Memphis City Council on July 7 and Shelby County Commission committees on July 8.
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