Trustee Carol Gray peeks in to a Library Trustees meeting last summer from Egypt courtesy of skype on Mary Streeter's mac laptop.
Amherst Select Board Open Meeting Law specialist Alisa Brewer reported this evening--right before they retreated into Executive Session--that Attorney General Martha Coakley has decided in favor of "remote participation" for boards and committees in Massachusetts, meaning you no longer have to be physically present to deliberate or vote on matters before your committee (although you do not count towards a quorum).
Excuses--I mean, permitted reasons--that allow for such a thing include "personal illness, personal disability, emergency, military service, or geographic distance." Of course it's the last one that will be used most often--especially in a town like Amherst where so many people are affiliated with UMass where the workplace is in full session only 7 months out of the year.
The Select Board, acting as chief executive officers have to vote in favor of adopting the regulation overall, before any of the 50 some odd boards, committees, sub committees and task forces can put it to use. Since the SB also appoints a fair amount of the citizenry to all these volunteer positions they may find remote participation to be an effective tool for recruitment.
Besides, anything that gets people to participate in government is a good thing. Even better when government itself starts to embrace the 21st century.
Attorney General's press release on remote participation