Comitta Calls For Continuing Remote Council Meetings, Code Change

HARRISBURG, PA — Pennsylvania Sen. Carolyn Comitta (D-156th) wants support in allowing for remote municipal meetings to continue, without a requirement that a quorum of board members meets in person.

The Senator sent a memo on June 8 to all state senators asking for their support in changing the state’s Borough Code requirement to allow remote meeting options as the Commonwealth moves into post-pandemic life.

Comitta said it became clear during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic that some municipal codes made it difficult for councils and other governing bodies to conduct official business using the internet.

In April 2020, a change to Title 35 (Health and Safety) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes created a mechanism and standards for political subdivisions of the Commonwealth to meet remotely, online, during the COVID-19 emergency, Comitta explained in the memo.

The act also included a permanent change to Title 35 which provided that during a declared disaster or emergency, the governing body of a political subdivision does not need to be physically present at any one location to conduct business if a quorum is otherwise established by the participating member through an authorized telecommunication device.

But once the current emergency has ended, the provisions of Title 35 will no longer be available to the governing bodies of the Commonwealth’s 956 boroughs, Comitta told other senators.

She said borough councils will be forced to rely on the outdated remote meeting provisions contained in The Borough Code, which require that “a physical quorum of members of the borough council must be established prior to the use of any telecommunication device by those members not physically present at the meeting.”

“In this present day and age, and after all that we have experienced during the past year, I believe it is time to make it easier for borough council members to continue to conduct official business remotely, with proper public notice and access, should they need to,” Comitta said.

“Therefore, I plan to introduce legislation that would remove the requirement in The Borough Code that only council members physically present at a meeting may count towards a quorum. I welcome your co-sponsorship of this legislation which has the support of the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs,” she told senators.

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