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A scaled back virtual meetings bill is likely moving forward in Richmond

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During the pandemic, many local governments started conducting business virtually. Now, some of that is about to continue into the future.

When the previous governor declared a state of emergency for the pandemic, local governments had the ability to hold virtual meetings. Now that state of emergency is over, and your local city council can't meet virtually and neither can your local commission on aging.

Delegate Elizabeth Bennett-Parker is a freshman Democrat from Alexandria who wants to change that.

"Over the course of the pandemic, when we had virtual meetings, I think we saw a dramatic increase in participation and I know having worked on this for almost basically two years now in different iterations of it, that it's really important to a lot of different folks — seniors, for example, the Northern Virginia Aging Network, this is one of their top six legislative priorities this year," Bennett-Parker explains. "It's important to women and other people who can't always be in person all the time."

People who want to participate in a Library Board or the Local Emergency Planning Committee; they would be able to take advantage of a bill Bennett-Parker introduced allowing advisory bodies to meet virtually. The bill initially allowed city councils and school boards to meet virtually, but the Senate scaled that back so it applies only to advisory bodies. Senator Jennifer Boysko is a Democrat from Herndon.

"This does not apply to town councils. This does not apply to school boards. This is for boards and commissions that are not elected bodies," Boysko says. "And I can tell you from my locality, they've been begging for this. It's hard to get people to agree to serve on some of these boards and commissions and advisory councils."

The bill has one more procedural vote to go in the House before it heads to the governor's desk.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.