COVID-19 and its Effects on Kansas Open Meetings Act
Under Kansas law, citizens have the right to access public records and observe many meetings where decisions are made that affect our state. The Kansas Open Records Act (KORA) and the Kansas Open Meetings Act (KOMA) dictate what meetings and records are open to the public. From social distancing, to quarantine, to stay-at-home orders, Covid-19 has impacted the way public meetings can be held.
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has proposed temporary rules and guidance during this time of emergency declaration due to the effects of Coronavirus. You can read and follow the progression of those temporary rules at the Attorney General's website here (scroll down the heading "Proposed Temporary Regulations").
It should be noted, these changes do not waive any significant rules. The Attorney General is encouraging the use of teleconferencing and live video to allow the public to attend meetings in progress without being present in the meeting room. Most governing bodies are aware that individual board or council members can appear by phone or teleconference, as long as all present at the meeting can hear them. This still applies, and phone or video conferencing can be used to limit the number of persons present. However, having several individuals present by phone can be difficult to manage, as the presiding officer must still manage the meeting and the members are required to clearly identify themselves prior to speaking and votes must be recorded properly—usually by roll call vote. Note also that if materials are provided such as written agendas or resolutions to be passed, they must be distributed to the public accessing the meeting online or remotely.