House to Codify Guidelines for Virtual Town Halls

New rules are coming to the House for members hosting virtual town hall meetings with constituents back in their districts.

“It is more of a clarification, something that wasn’t really spelled out that we could do,” said House Administration Chairman Gregg Harper of Mississippi.

The panel rarely brings proposals up for a vote that aren’t assured adoption, and this proposal is similar, with support from members on both sides of the aisle.

“Everybody’s in agreement that in today’s age a virtual town hall — it should be a no-brainer that you can do this,” said Harper.

The House Administration Committee takes up a resolution Wednesday that will codify regulations for lawmakers teaming up to do joint town hall meetingson the internet.

Under the new regulations, members can be reimbursed for “ordinary and necessary” expenses related to conducting town halls over the phone or internet with other members of the House from any state or with senators from the co-host’s home state. For flat rate expenses, members must split the costs evenly. Costs that are based on the number of constituents contacted must be divided relative to each member’s districts.

It’s illegal under current law for members to send out mailings to people outside of their own district, so mail-based promotion of a joint virtual town hall must be separated.

Roll Call