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Failed House Bill 49 would have required video/audio of public meetings


CASPER, Wyo. — A proposed bill to require live audio and/or video access to public meetings died in the Wyoming House of Representatives on Friday.

HB49, also referred to as the “By the people act,” had been received for introduction on Jan. 24, but failed in the next step for consideration in the House, according the digest on Wyoleg.gov.

The lead sponsor was Rep. Sarah Penn, House District 33, R-Fremont, and the bill had nine other House sponsors and three Senate sponsors.

Oil City News has reached out to Penn about the bill’s demise, but did not hear back by the time of publication. The story will be updated with Penn’s comments when they become available.

In an email response to questions last week, Penn said people have told her they are facing barriers to participation in public meetings, with comment periods often being removed and transparency becoming a low priority.

She quoted the Dalai Lama to underscore her point: “Lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity.” Wyoming residents feel that insecurity, Penn said.

She added that she’s heard from people statewide that school boards, county commissions, library boards and airport districts have been putting up barriers to citizen participation.

Besides the support from the sponsors and Wyoming residents, the Wyoming Press Association was aware of HB49, Executive Director Darcie Hoffland said.

“On behalf of the Press Association, we favor more transparency,” Hoffland said.

HB49 had four proposed amendments to the existing statute — 16-4-403 — about open meetings:

  • “To the extent practicable, public meetings shall provide live remote audio or video access to the meeting by members of the public.”
  • If an agency provides a timed public comment period for a specific item on the agenda, that agency shall not close the period until that time ends. If the agency does not set a time limit, it shall provide a reasonable amount of time for people to comment.
  • An agency shall compile minutes for each public meeting, and shall make them available to the public on its website or another location accessible to the public. The agency may remove them from its website, but not before five years; and a copy shall remain publicly available.
  • An unaltered, original audio and/or video recording of a public meeting shall be made available to the public on its website or another publicly accessible place. No agency shall prohibit or restrict the broadcast or audio and/or video recording of a public meeting unless it determines that would cause a disruption of the meeting.

Penn said the bill’s name, “By the people act,” comes straight from the United States government being one of, by, for and authorized by the people. “If people can’t interact, then our system falls apart.”