Wednesday, March 09, 2022

Senate approves measure to make virtual public meetings more accessible

Senate approves measure to make virtual public meetings more accessible

 OKLAHOMA CITY – The Senate gave unanimous approval to Senate Bill 1547 on Tuesday, which would make virtual public meetings a permanent fixture across the state.

The measure, authored by Sen. Brent Howard, R-Altus, would modify the Open Meetings Act to require public bodies such as school boards, local municipalities, and state agencies to stream and post all public meetings online if they maintain a website and utilize a high-speed internet connection. In addition, public bodies in counties with an active state of emergency declaration may conduct executive session via videoconference.

While local governments and schools were required to hold virtual meetings in addition to in-person sessions during the governor-declared state of emergency due to COVID-19, such provisions expired when the emergency declaration ended.

“As technology evolves, we must evolve with it,” Howard said. “Livestreams and remote work are now staples in modern-day life, and we must allow our local and state governments to conduct their business online and in-person. This change will be helpful during any future pandemics, natural disasters, and other emergencies, but will also lay the groundwork for a more informed general public.”

Howard emphasized allowing public meetings to be streamed online not only enhances transparency, but also encourages citizens to be more active in their community and state.

“The more opportunities for citizens to participate in and follow the activities of their schools and government, the stronger our society as a whole,” Howard said. “I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House of Representatives to move this legislation forward and ensure all Oklahomans have the ability to make their voices heard at every level of government, regardless if it’s in person or remotely.”

The measure next moves across the rotunda where it will be carried by Speaker of the House Charles McCall, R-Atoka.


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