INDIANAPOLIS — Online participation in government meetings, which has become a staple during the COVID-19 pandemic, may be here to stay.

Indiana legislators are supporting proposals that would permanently allow members of local government boards to participate virtually in public meetings.

Similar bills approved by the House and Senate would permit boards to adopt policies allowing members to vote virtually as long as they can be seen and heard.

State and local government boards have generally been allowed to hold all-virtual meetings since Gov. Eric Holcomb issued an exemption to the current state law requiring in-person meetings last spring as part of the COVID-19 public health measures, which are ongoing.

The proposals would require at least half of the board members to attend public meetings in person and members participate virtually in no more than half of the meetings except for limited reasons such as illness or military service.

The House-passed version would require meetings with virtual participation to also allow the public to observe the meeting online starting in July, while the Senate version would delay that requirement until January 2023.

The legislation is being considered even as new cases and deaths from COVID-19 continue to slow across the state.

The Indiana State Department of Health on Monday reported 824 additional Hoosiers have been diagnosed with COVID-19, bringing the total to 656,358. Another 35 deaths were reported, raising the pandemic toll to 11,982 confirmed and 425 probable.

There were 9 news cases reported in La Porte County on Monday, raising the local totals to 9,716 infected and 194 dead, according to the ISDH.

On Sunday, the ISDH reported 888 additional cases and 35 deaths, including 17 cases in the county. On Saturday, 1,449 new cases and 14 deaths were reported, including 19 cases in the county.

As of Monday, 893,246 Hoosiers had received a first dose of vaccine, and 440,028 were fully vaccinated. Additional vaccination locations and appointments are being added as more vaccine becomes available, according to the ISDH.

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