Open Meetings and Government Transparency in the Wake of COVID-19
On March 16, 2020, Governor JB Pritzker issued Executive Order 2020-07 which, among other things, suspended certain provisions of the Illinois Open Meetings Act (“OMA”), an act which ensures transparency regarding meetings, discussions, and actions taken by public actors concerning public business. The executive order was a response to the practical challenges to compliance with the OMA’s in-person and physical quorum requirements facing local governments as they grapple with restrictions on public gatherings due to the public health threat of COVID-19, declared an emergency in Illinois by Pritzker’s Gubernatorial Disaster Declaration on March 12, 2020. Since March, Pritzker has continued to re-issue and extend COVID-19-related executive orders and the disaster declarations, including the executive actions identified above and their restrictions and suspensions applicable to the OMA, most recently through Executive Order 2020-55 on September 18, 2020. While the suspensions through executive order have provided a temporary solution allowing local governments to comply with the OMA in such an emergency situation, the Illinois legislature took it upon itself to address the issue permanently by amending the OMA statute.