Maine Legislature Passes COVID-19 Omnibus Bill re Public Meetings, Finance, and Other Municipal Concerns

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The Maine Legislature last night passed emergency legislation, LD 2167 (referred to as the COVID-19 Omnibus Bill), which addresses many of the concerns being faced by municipalities in this unprecedented situation. Following is our summary of the provisions of this law which impact municipal government:

Public meetings

  • During the declared state of emergency, meetings of municipal boards and committees may be conducted remotely by telephone, video, or Internet. The method must be adequate to allow members to hear and speak to one another, and must allow the public to hear what is said.
  • Notice must still be provided (we recommend emphasizing web and press announcements during this time, if offices are closed and physical postings are not possible). The notice must include information on how the public may watch and/or participate. Again, remember that you do not need to make provision to accept public comments unless the meeting will include a required public hearing.
  • The law does not appear to require that you provide a physical space and phone, terminal, or display where the public can attend in person to watch or listen to the proceedings.
  • Votes taken at a remote meeting must be by roll call.

Budget and finance

  • Similar to the process for enacting school budgets, the law allows for a municipality that cannot adopt its budget at the customary time to spend according to the prior year’s adopted budget until the current year’s budget can be passed. If these delays continue to the point at which commitment becomes necessary, taxes may also be committed based upon the prior year’s budget.
  • During the period of the declared state of emergency and for 30 days after, disbursement warrants may be signed by a majority of the municipal officers with no public meeting required. The implication is that the municipal officers may sign individually with no meeting required.
  • If the level of state education subsidy is not finalized before June 1, 2020, the school budget meeting and validation process may be delayed until 30 days after either DOE notifies the school unit of the amount of subsidy or the state of emergency ends. If the budget is delayed under this provision, the school may operate based on the prior year’s budget between July 1 and the date the new budget goes into effect.


  • During calendar year 2020, the municipal officers may postpone a municipal secret ballot election by posting a notice in a conspicuous public location at least two days prior to the election. The notice must either indicate the new date of the election or indicate that the municipal officers will schedule it at a date to be determined. Ballots already printed for that election may be reused for the rescheduled election (despite including the wrong date), and absentee ballots already cast for the election must be held by the clerk and processed on the rescheduled election date.


  • If an employee is laid off as a result of the state of emergency, unemployment benefits paid to him/her will not be charged against the employer’s experience rating.
  • Employees will be eligible for unemployment benefits if they are (1) subject to a quarantine or isolation requirement; (2) have been temporarily laid off due to COVID-19 related closures; or (3) are on temporarily leave due to quarantine, isolation, or need to care for dependent family members as a result of COVID-19.


  • The Governor and Commissioner of Education may develop a plan to waive compulsory attendance requirements and/or allow remote learning to take the place of in-person instruction requirements.
  • The Governor and Commissioner of Education will also implement a plan to continue to provide nutrition services during any period of COVID-19 related school closures.

Other municipal business

  • Vehicle registrations, liquor licenses, and dog licenses are deemed extended until 30 days after the end of the state of emergency.
  • Vehicle registrants may use the Rapid Renewal program even if their municipality does not already participate.