OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Public bodies in Oklahoma will be able to continue meeting virtually as a coronavirus safety precaution under a bill that’s being fast-tracked through the state Legislature.
The state Senate on Wednesday suspended its rules and unanimously passed the bill by Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat.
The bill would authorize public bodies to meet virtually through February 2022 or until the expiration of the governor’s executive emergency order on COVID-19.
Lawmakers last year allowed for virtual meetings, but those provisions expired in November. Rather than convene in special session, Republican legislative leaders agreed to address the issue at the start of the regular session.
Senate Bill 1031 by Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat reinstates the same exemptions to the Open Meeting Act that were signed into law in 2020 with some minor changes.
Among the changes from the 2020 exemptions are:
- Requires materials provided to members of the public body during a virtual meeting to immediately be made available to the public on the public body’s web site;
- Requires public bodies to conduct meetings in the manner described on the public notice of the meeting;
- Requires any necessary passcodes to access videoconferencing to be included in the public notice of a meeting; and
- Makes the exemptions effective until Feb. 15, 2022, or until 30 days after the expiration or termination of the state of emergency declared by the governor to respond to the threat of COVID-19, whichever date first occurs.
“The threat from COVID-19 is real and all of us are trying to take the appropriate steps to protect the health and safety of our family, friends and neighbors. That includes public bodies, which need to continue meeting during the ongoing pandemic but in a safe manner. This bill provides public bodies the flexibility to hold virtual public meetings until the pandemic is behind us. I am thankful for the quick action and support of the Oklahoma Senate on this measure and am encouraged that our colleagues in the House have plans to do the same,” said Treat, R-Oklahoma City.
SB 1031 now heads to the Oklahoma House.