HB 404 Addresses Virtual Meetings, Virtual Learning, and Excess CARES Funding
Update: Governor Mike DeWine signed HB 404 into law on November 23, 2020
In March, the General Assembly made temporary changes to Ohio’s Open Meetings Act, which governs the practices of public bodies. House Bill 197 allowed such bodies (including school boards, city councils and others) to hold and attend meetings, and conduct hearings by means of teleconference, video conference, or any other similar electronic technology.
At that time, Ohio leaders did not anticipate that pandemic conditions would persist far beyond autumn. Consequently, many of HB 197’s provisions were passed with a December 2020 expiration date. With December approaching, COVID-19 case numbers rising, and Ohio’s state of emergency still in effect, the need for an extension became evident.
The solution? Amended House Bill 404, which extends the temporary authorizations that public bodies received in HB 197 to meet remotely, now with a July 1, 2021 expiration date. HB 404 contains an emergency clause, allowing it to become effective upon the Governor’s signature.
The bill, which originally referred only to the meetings of state university trustees, was also amended to tie up loose ends regarding the state administration of federal CARES funds and COVID-created crises in K-12 education.
Current law requires local subdivisions receiving CARES Act funding have the money encumbered by November 20th or return the money to their county treasury. County Treasurers who receive money are to reallocate that money within the county based on a formula set forth in law. HB 404 requires county treasurers return the state treasury CARES funding they are unable to reallocate to other subdivisions.
The bill addresses several matters which have concerned the state’s school district superintendents since the pandemic began, including licensure requirements, employee evaluations, and perhaps most importantly, state testing requirements.
HB 404 has been passed by both the Ohio Senate and Ohio House, and now heads to Governor DeWine for his signature.
The table below summarizes the provisions of HB 404 affecting Ohio’s primary and secondary schools:
Per ORC 121.22, a “public body” includes: “[a]ny board, commission, committee, council, or similar decision-making body of a state agency, institution, or authority, and any legislative authority or board, commission, committee, council, agency, authority, or similar decision-making body of any county, township, municipal corporation, school district, or other political subdivision or local public institution; [and any committee or subcommittee of such a body].” It also includes a court of jurisdiction of a sewer and water district.
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