Oklahoma AG Hunter announces open meetings going back to pre-COVID-19 rules

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) โ€“ Oklahoma is returning to pre-pandemic open meeting rules as COVID-19 cases continue surging in the state.

State Attorney General Mike Hunter issued a news release on Thursday, reminding state boards and commissions to return starting Sunday to how open meetings were held before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amendments to the Open Meetings Act through Senate Bill 661, which allowed public bodies to meet virtually as a precaution against the COVID-19 pandemic, will expire on Sunday.

โ€œWhen this legislation was authored, no one could have predicted how long the pandemic would last,โ€ Attorney General Hunter said. โ€œMore is now known about how we can safely meet and conduct business in accordance with proper social distancing and other safety protocols. How ever boards and commissions decide to meet, they need to do it under the Open Meetings Act pre-SB 661 beginning Sunday.โ€

However, COVID-19 is not slowing down in the state. In fact, it’s surging, hitting massive record highs for both new cases and hospitalizations.

COVID-19’s presence in Oklahoma once again grew by more than 2,000 cases in a 24-hour period , the Oklahoma State Department of Health reported on Thursday.

Hunter coordinated with the Oklahoma Press Association (OPA) in announcing the upcoming expiration of the relaxed open meeting rules. OPA Vice President Mark Thomas encourages public bodies to provide a virtual attendance option during open meetings.

โ€œWe have seen innovative and creative ways for entities to conduct business recently, and we encourage public bodies to follow their lead,โ€ Thomas said. โ€œWe also encourage them to continue offering virtual attendance and livestreaming functions to increase transparency, especially when limiting the number of those in attendance. If members are still concerned or cannot find a way to meet safely, and their matters can be postponed to a future date, they are still welcome to cancel the meeting and reschedule it for a future date.โ€

You can read more about Oklahoma’s open records and meeting laws at the Oklahoma Department of Libraries website.

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