RIVERHEAD, NY – At the September 9th General Meeting of the Suffolk County Legislature, a resolution sponsored by Majority Leader Susan A. Berland (D-Dix Hills) to approve remote public participation in legislative meetings into the foreseeable future and beyond unanimously passed. This change, originally implemented at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic has allowed the Legislature to conduct business safely and in compliance with CDC and State guidelines, while remaining engaged with the public. This resolution will codify the policy within the Rules of the Legislature to ensure that members of the public will have the ability to remote into future meetings even when a state of emergency is not in effect.
“Videoconferencing has proved to be the safest and most accessible way for constituents to participate in our democratic process in Suffolk County Government during the height of the pandemic,” stated Majority Leader Susan A. Berland. “While we are still facing many unknowns, especially due to the uncertainty of the Delta variant, this will safeguard the public’s ability to use technology to make their voices heard and will lend to a more open and transparent government now and into the post-pandemic future. I am proud to sponsor this resolution and thank my colleagues for their support.”
“Public participation in the lawmaking process is essential to ensuring that lawmakers hear the needs of all members of our community. By allowing for continued remote participation during our legislative meetings, those who cannot be physically present for whatever reason can engage with the legislature members. I applaud Legislator Berland for her work on this measure and thank my colleagues for supporting its passage,” stated Presiding Officer Rob Calarco.
“In the year and a half since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have witnessed the central role technology has had in preserving functionality during this time of crisis. As technology evolves we are fortunate to be able to use advancements to increase transparency of governmental proceedings and the public’s access to their representatives,” said Deputy Presiding Officer Kara Hahn, a co-sponsor of the bill. “Thank you, Presiding Officer Calarco, for investing in the technology necessary to allow residents to speak during public meetings and have their voices heard. By codifying this policy we are reinforcing how important it is for us, as the public’s elected representatives, to hear their comments on the policies that will impact them.”
“Making sure that all residents have the opportunity for their voices to be heard is extremely important to me,” said Legislator Richberg. “The COVID pandemic has shown that allowing the public to provide their comments virtually is not only possible, but in many cases is more convenient than attending in-person, and I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t continue that practice. Many of our constituents work multiple jobs, have family commitments, or lack the transportation that would allow them to attend legislative meetings. This bill ensures that we preserve our residents’ ability to participate in the legislative process, regardless of their physical location. Thank you to my colleagues Legislator Berland and Presiding Officer Calarco for all of their work on this issue.”
During Public Hearings and at the Public Portion of all regularly scheduled legislative meetings, special meetings or standing committee meetings, all members of the public who wish to speak will have the option to participate in the meeting either in person or via videoconferencing. At this time, due to technological limitations in the Riverside auditorium, remote participation will be limited to meetings held in Hauppauge. Those who would like to participate remotely must sign up in advance of a scheduled meeting by visiting the Suffolk County Legislature’s website – see the links below.
For members of the public who are unable to participate remotely or in person, there are other options that remain available and submitted comments will be distributed to legislators. Members of the public may send written testimony by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by regular mail to the attention of the Clerk's Office at the Suffolk County Legislature, P.O. Box 6100, Hauppauge, NY 11788. Audio testimony will also be accepted by voicemail at 631-853-3685; callers may leave a 3-minute message.