Attorney general announces new rules to keep government meetings transparent during COVID-19 distancing limitations

New rules for state and local governments to comply with the Kansas Open Meetings Act (KOMA) during ‘social distancing’ emergency restrictions have been approved by the State Rules and Regulations Board and are now legally binding, Attorney General Derek Schmidt said today.

Schmidt proposed the new regulation last week amid the proliferation of federal, state and local public-health restrictions that may prevent people from gathering in-person for public meetings. The State Rules and Regulations Board this morning met and voted to approve the temporary regulation. Schmidt said he will propose the regulation be permanently adopted, which will start a process allowing more public input and comment on the regulation.

Overall, the new regulation advises public bodies to keep the need for transparency prominently in mind if stay-home orders or other pandemic-response requirements prevent the public from attending meetings or cause members of public bodies to meet without physically gathering in person. Public bodies subject to the KOMA should “take any actions as may be necessary and reasonable under the circumstances of the emergency declaration to advance the state policy that ‘meetings for the conduct of governmental affairs and the transaction of governmental business be open to the public.’”

A copy of the regulation, K.A.R. 16-20-1, and an accompanying Best Practices document are available on the attorney general’s website at www.ag.ks.gov/open-government.

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