Montana’s New Transparency Law Ensures Public Access to Local Government Meetings

Montana’s latest legislative effort to enhance government transparency went into effect on July 1 with the implementation of House Bill 890, aimed at providing the public with clearer insights into local government proceedings.

Sponsored by Rep. Brad Barker, R-Luther, HB 890 mandates that many local government boards across the state record their meetings and publish the recordings online within five business days. The law targets cities with populations exceeding 5,000, counties with over 4,500 residents, most school districts with more than 1,000 students, and local health boards, requiring them to archive audio and video recordings of their sessions. Smaller municipalities and counties with populations between 1,000 and 5,000 are required to record audio only.

Dan Rispens, superintendent of East Helena Public Schools, acknowledged the adjustment required to comply with the new law. “It’s been a learning curve for us, understanding how we’ll meet these requirements,” Rispens commented, highlighting the district’s decision to shift from live streaming to focusing on meeting the recording obligations.

Rep. Barker underscored the law’s role in fostering public trust by increasing transparency in government operations. “The more transparency we have in discussing and approving budgets, contracts, and other public matters, the better informed the public will be,” Barker stated, emphasizing the law’s potential to improve governance processes and accountability.

House Bill 890 follows a previous legislative effort, House Bill 724, requiring local government boards to publish meeting agendas in advance, reinforcing Montana’s commitment to transparency and civic engagement.

As local governments adjust to these new requirements, stakeholders anticipate ongoing improvements in accessibility and accountability within Montana’s civic processes.

By: Big Sky Headlines staff