The MSBA held its second “Coffee Talk” on April 9, 2020, a virtual gathering hosted by State and Local Government Law Section Chair Frank Johnson. Moderated by MSBA Director of Member Experience Shaoli Katana, this informal meeting allowed section members to hear from MSBA staff and each other on many subjects related to the COVID-19 emergency. Discussion topics ranged from issues of general health and wellness to substantive legal issues unique to the section’s practice area.
Ms. Katana summarized MSBA efforts to provide members with information in real-time as executive and administrative orders continue to evolve. Participants were directed to the MSBA’s dedicated COVID-19 Updates webpage for news and resources that can help them adjust to the realities of their new work environment while at the same time focusing on their current and future personal and professional health. The site also links to many free learning opportunities made available by the MSBA and others.
Lawyer Assistance Program Director Lisa Caplan reminded listeners of the availability of resources to help ensure emotional resilience during a stressful period, including daily wellness tips, weekly on-line support groups, on demand mindfulness, yoga and exercise programs, and occasional offerings like the complimentary April 17 Midday Reset webinar, all of which can be be accessed through the COVID-19 page.
Richard Montgomery III, Director of Legislative Relations, reported that MSBA continues to bundle questions from the community seeking interpretive guidance on broadly worded executive orders. These questions have been forwarded to the Governor’s Office of Legal Counsel, which has been reporting back with answers. A third set of questions is being prepared for OLC, supplementing five different sets of questions that were sent to the Judiciary seeking guidance on its administrative orders. These questions, and OLC and Judiciary answers, can also be found on the MSBA COVID webpage. MSBA has been sharing these FAQs widely with the legal community.
MSBA Deputy Executive Director Anna Sholl discussed a number of subjects, including upcoming publications and plans for the Annual Meeting. Ms. Sholl noted that the meeting remains scheduled for June 2020, although contingency plans, perhaps for an August date, are in the works. A decision is expected by April 21. Ms. Sholl described plans for virtual town halls and other connection events to help the MSBA understand problems its members are facing, and to enable it to continue to work on solutions. She urged members to share their thoughts on the Annual Meeting, programming ideas, or any other matters of concern at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Section members took the opportunity to discuss among themselves several issues that their clients are experiencing, such as how to comply with new federal FMLA mandates and existing state public meeting and Public Information Act requirements, and whether and to what extent local governments might postpone municipal elections or ban non-resident property owners from their properties.