On June 30, 2021, Governor Wolf enacted Act 65 of 2021 creating new requirements for governmental entities to provide notice of certain meeting agenda items to the general public. Act 65 requires that a governmental entity publish the agenda for any upcoming meeting on its publicly accessible internet website, if it has one. Act 65 further requires that a governmental entity post “the agenda, which includes a listing of each matter of agency business that will be or may be the subject of deliberation or official acts at the meeting on the website, no later than 24 hours in advance of the convening of the meeting.” In addition to posting on its website, the governmental entity must post the agenda at the location of the meeting and at the principal office of the governmental entity. Further, the governmental entity must make the agenda available to individuals in attendance at the meeting. The law does not specify any particular way in which copies must be provided to the public. It is reasonable to interpret this language as permitting a governmental entity to provide either individual paper copies of the agenda or to project it on a screen so the public can read along. Conferences or working sessions, as those terms are defined under Section 707 of the Sunshine Act, and executive sessions as that term is defined under Section 708 of the Sunshine Act, are exempted from this requirement.
Act 65 also states that a governmental entity may not take official action on a matter of business if the matter is not included in the agenda posted on the website and at the place of meeting at least twenty four (24) hours in advance of the meeting. Act 65 creates an exemption for emergency business, and a governmental entity may take official action at a regular or emergency meeting related to a real or potential emergency involving a clear and present danger to life or property regardless of whether public notice was given to the meeting. Further, Act 65 also creates an exception for business which arises less than twenty (24) hours prior to the meeting. A governmental entity is permitted to act on the matter if it arises within that time period, is de minimis in nature, and does not involve the expenditure of funds or the entering into a contract by the agency. Act 65 also creates an exception for business arising during a meeting. If a resident or taxpayer brings a matter of agency business not listed on the published agenda to the attention of the governmental entity during the meeting, the entity may either take official action to refer the matter for further research or, if the matter is de minimis in nature and does not involve the expenditure of funds or entering into a contract, may take official action on the matter.
Act 65 does permit changes to the agenda if those changes are approved by a majority vote of the individuals present and voting. The reasons for the changes to the agenda must be announced at the meeting before any vote is conducted, and then the governmental entity may take official action on the matter. The governmental entity must post the amended agenda on its website, if available, and at the entity’s principal office no later than the first business day following the meeting at which the agenda was changed. This subsection does not apply to a work session, conference, or executive session.
The law takes effect sixty (60) days from June 30. All governmental entities must be familiar with the changes in this law and must be prepared to implement them in time for their September voting meetings. The attorneys at Maiello Brungo & Maiello’s Public Sector Law Group can assist with any questions related to the new procedures outlined in Act 65.