Oklahoma public bodies from city councils to nonprofits can once again meet virtually to minimize risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gov. Kevin Stitt signed Senate Bill 1031 on Wednesday morning, reinstating that provision. It took effect immediately.
Stitt thanked Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat (R-Oklahoma City) and House Speaker Charles McCall (R-Atoka) for getting the bill to his desk less than two weeks into session.
"We had constituents, we had local school boards, we had ... state agencies all wanting this to be able to meet virtually. And so, really appreciate your efforts to get this across the finish line," Stitt told them at a signing ceremony.
The option for public bodies to hold virtual meetings expired Nov. 15, but Stitt, Treat and McCall declined to convene a special session to reinstate it. It’s now back on the table until Feb. 15, 2022, or 30 days after Stitt’s emergency order expires, whichever is first.
Stitt said he’d consider making permanent some of the changes SB1031 makes to the Open Meeting Act, because increased access hasn’t been the only benefit of virtual meetings.
"We've also given folks the opportunity to serve on boards and made it more available for people that live in the panhandle or wherever that have jobs. That's what we want. We want to attract good folks to serve in state government, and I think this bill allows them to do that," Stitt said.
The bill also requires documents distributed to board members to be made available to the public and prohibits public bodies from changing a meeting from virtual to in-person once it’s been posted.