New OPMA materials to help local governments navigate recent changes

Jul 12, 2023

The Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) was enacted to make the conduct of Washington’s governments more accessible and open to the public. The OPMA underwent significant changes in 2022 when the Legislature modified the law in response to how local governments had adapted and continued to hold their governing body meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With all these changes, the Municipal Research and Services Center (MRSC), in partnership with SAO’s Center for Government Innovation, decided to revamp and expand our OPMA materials to help local governments better navigate the new requirements.

OPMA Guide

We’ve reorganized the OPMA Guide to better reflect how a local government would apply the law. This includes step-by-step instructions regarding:

  • Applicability — detailing which local agency bodies are subject to the OPMA
  • What is a meeting? — breaking down the definition of a meeting
  • Exemptions — explaining which types of meetings are fully exempt
  • Procedural requirements — walking through the procedural requirements applicable to regular, special and emergency meetings
  • Executive sessions — adding context for executive session topics
  • Penalties and enforcement
  • Training requirements
  • Recommended resources

We’ve also incorporated and highlighted recent and significant legislative changes that occurred in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including:

  • New sections on serial, hybrid and remote meetings
  • Additional detail on emergency meetings
  • New guidance on meeting cancellation and adjournment
  • A detailed explanation of the public comment requirements for regular meetings at which the governing body takes final action

Plus, we’ve updated the “Selected Questions” section included after each chapter by providing answers to those questions most frequently asked by local governments over the last few years.

OPMA Practice Tips Guidance Sheets

We’ve expanded our collection of OPMA Practice Tips Guidance Sheets to include developing and modifying agendas and minutes. These new guidance sheets not only provide the legal obligations for modifying agendas and taking minutes, but also practical tips and recommended practices. You can also find guidance sheets for OPMA basic requirements, notice requirements, executive sessions and electronic communications.