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New Legislation Provides Some Flexibility for County Legislative Bodies as to Meeting Locations

New Legislation Provides Some Flexibility for County Legislative Bodies as to Meeting Locations

Image: Columbia County Courthouse in Dayton, Washington.

In one bill, the 2015 Legislature addressed the issue considered in a 2014 attorney general opinion that was discussed in a December 2014 MRSC blog post, May a County Legislative Body Meet Outside its County to Hold a Joint Meeting with the Legislative Body of Another County? That attorney general opinion, AGO 2014 No. 7, concluded that, absent specific statutory authority, the legislative authority of one county may not meet outside its borders with the legislative authority of another county. HB 1145 (Ch. 74, Laws of 2015) amends state law to provide that specific statutory authority when the legislative bodies want to address matters of mutual interest.

That legislation, which will be effective on July 24, 2015, amends RCW 36.32.080, dealing with regular meetings of county legislative bodies, and RCW 36.32.090, dealing with special meetings of county legislative bodies, to allow joint meetings – regular or special - of two or more county legislative bodies in the county seat of a participating county. They may hold such a joint meeting if the meeting agenda includes an item or items that “relate to actions or considerations of mutual interest or concern to the participating legislative authorities.” If the joint meeting is at the date and time for a regular meeting of the legislative body (or bodies) that does not host the meeting, the notice requirements in RCW 42.30.080 for a special meeting must be followed by that visiting legislative body (or bodies).

The two or more county legislative authorities may, as noted in AGO 2014 No. 7, still hold a joint meeting by means of video conferencing, as long as each legislative authority is physically located within its county seat.

In a related piece of legislation, HB 1013 (scheduled to be signed by the Governor today, 5/7/2015) authorizes county legislative authorities, which have been restricted by RCW 36.32.080 to holding regular meetings at the county seat, to hold regular meetings outside the county seat but within the county if they determine first that “holding a meeting at an alternate location would be in the interest of supporting greater citizen engagement in local government.” Such regular meetings held outside the county seat may occur no more than once per calendar quarter. Notice of such a meeting must occur at least 30 days in advance and must be posted on the county’s website, published in a newspaper of general circulation in the county, and sent electronically to any county resident who has requested notice under this statute. This bill will also be effective on July 24, 2015.

MRSC is a private nonprofit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible government agencies in Washington State may use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.

Photo of Bob Meinig

About Bob Meinig

Bob wrote extensively on the state Open Public Meetings Act, municipal incorporation and annexation, and a wide variety of other legal topics. He is now retired.