Bill To Allow Virtual Meetings Advances To Governor's Desk


Monday, February 8th 2021, 5:55 pm
By: Storme Jones


OKLAHOMA CITY -

Winter weather Monday did not keep Oklahoma lawmakers from advancing the first bill of the session to the governor’s desk. 

It's a bill that passed last session allowing public bodies to hold their meetings virtually due to COVID-19. That law had expired causing lawmakers to rush an extension through the process. 

“Some of these boards have had to make the decision; we risk our lives, or we serve the community,” Rep. Jim Grego, R-Wilburton said. 

The bill now headed to Gov. Stitt's desk allows school districts, municipalities and other public bodies to return to virtual meetings. 

“A lot of people liked it, a lot of business was conducted that way,” Senate Minority Leader Kay Floyd, D-OKC said. “It was good that we were able to get that passed because it expired in November.” 

House Democrat Regina Goodwin, D-Tulsa, asked why lawmakers are not afforded the same virtual meeting option. 

“We're going to decide for a municipality that they can convene in a safe manner and this very same body style thought so little of us that we would not have the opportunity for one to do the people’s business,” Goodwin said. 

House Majority Leader Jon Echols, R-OKC, said there were not enough votes to pass a bill allowing lawmakers to vote by proxy. 

“Members were sent here to do the people’s business, so they need to go to the people’s business,” he said. 

Echols said follow up bills will include more specifics. He said a future bill could include forgiving public bodies who continued meeting virtually even after the exception lapsed. 

“There will be another bill coming with some more things like that to have the process run smoother and be far more transparent than I think it is now,” he said.