Slider
Slider

|

Slider

House passes bill to allow videoconference in government meetings

Local
Typography
  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

THE House of Representatives on Tuesday unanimously passed a House bill that allows government entities to utilize internet or online video conferencing, teleconferencing, and other electronic means of communication to take action and conduct official meetings.

Authored by Rep. Luis John Castro, House Bill 21-129 now goes to the Senate.

The measure is based on the recommendation of the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers in light of Covid-19, which has made business as usual a struggle for the CNMI government.

The bill aims to save thousands of dollars in unnecessary travel and improve the efficiency of virtually every government board and commission.

During the session, Castro said global events have forced the CNMI to conform to a “new normal.”

“Congregating is not always possible and, at times, is harmful,” he added.

He said several boards and commissions have requested  legislation to exempt them from in-person meetings.

He noted that some of his colleagues were attending the session virtually, namely Rep. Donald Manglona of Rota and Rep. Antonio Borja of Tinian.

Castro said the legislation would save the government a significant amount of money by reducing travel expenses, which include per diem, airfare, rental cars, among other things.

“I do want to reiterate that this measure does not mandate this avenue for them to follow, but to give them the option to use it effectively to conduct business when…circumstances beyond their control occur,” he said.

 

Representatives wrap up their session on Tuesday in the House chamber. Photo by K-Andrea Evarose S. Limol

The Open Government Act, which was enacted in 1994, does not allow government meetings to be conducted online or virtually.

Castro’s bill also aims to permit an entity to promulgate its own rules and regulations regarding online or virtual appearances.

Rep. Tina Sablan, for her part, noted that a House bill to allow government meetings to be live-streamed has been sitting in the House for quite some time now.

HB 21-7, otherwise known as the Livestreaming Video Act of 2019,  was introduced in Feb. 2019.

“We have seen in the last few months that it is very possible to conduct meetings online…. We’ve seen that we could use it as well,” she said.

“I’d like to urge, colleagues, that after we pass this legislation, we take the next step of making all of our government meetings as open and accessible and streamlined and efficient and online so that our constituents may participate more in their government and have more access to the decisions that are being made on their behalf,” she added.


previous arrow
next arrow
Shadow
Slider

Read more articles

Visit our Facebook Page

previous arrow
next arrow
Shadow
Slider