The operative words: Not just coronavirus but cancellations, postponements and suspensions; test for Open Meetings’ videoteleconferencing

It’s no news to you that coronavirus is causing bedlam across the state and the country as pages have been filled with stories about everything associated with the pandemic. From “postponing” or “suspending,” the state high school basketball tournaments, the SEC and other major conferences limiting in-arena audiences and then cancelling tournaments as a whole, and even the legislature, our schedules have been turned upside down.

Thursday afternoon, shortly after Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer announced the chamber was adjourning “until 9 a.m. Friday, March 13, 2020,” legislative leaders from both chambers and both parties met to discuss the General Assembly’s schedule in light of the coronavirus situation. Late Thursday afternoon, leadership announced that it would not be meeting Friday, March 13 and Monday, March 16, but planned to resume the session on Tuesday, March 17. The during his Friday morning press conference updating the press and public on the coronavirus situation in the Commonwealth, Gov. Andy Beshear briefly addressed the legislative schedule. He mentioned that the only thing required of the General Assembly to complete before the April 15 deadline to end the session is the state budget. As of Friday morning, it remains to be seen if the legislature will make further changes to its calendar but will not be in session until at least Tuesday, March 17.

Schedule changes also extend to some journalism-related events such as the induction luncheon for the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame. It was scheduled for March 31 but has been moved to October 15. If you’ve made your reservation already, it will be honored for the luncheon in the fall. If you need a refund, contact the University of Kentucky College of Communication and Information Services.

It was first announced the Joe Creason Lecture will still take place but later on Thursday came the announcement it was being postponed. That includes the ‘Democracy and the Informed Citizen’ program that was being put on by the Kentucky Humanities Council. It appears, too, that the other Kentucky Humanities Council’s events associated with this are being postponed as well, according to an email from Kathleen Pool. Those events were mentioned in the March 6 On Second Thought.

Both the Creason Lecture and ‘Democracy’ events plan to be rescheduled for be watching for those dates in On Second Thought.

The annual Media Appreciation Luncheon by Campbellsville University is still scheduled for April 9 although it is subject to change. But no decision to cancel or postpone had been made by Friday morning.

Other news because of cancellations, postponements and suspensions:

TEST FOR OPEN MEETINGS’ TELECONFERENCING LAW — Early this week, there were some communications from other state press associations posing the issue that if public agencies have to change their meeting format, does any state have laws on video teleconferencing? Of course, proudly I told them of the law put into Kentuckys Open Meetings Law back in 1992. A few other states have similar language.

Kentucky’s law was put into effect at the request of universities who said Board of Trustee members weren’t always able to attend in person but could participate in a meeting if teleconferencing was an option. So KPA general counsel Jon Fleischaker worked on some language and it was included in the 1992 major rewrite. To my recollection, it’s only been used one time but the coronavirus situation could move numerous state agencies — think boards and commissions — to hold meetings via video.

Gov. Andy Beshear has authorized state Boards and Commissions to hold its meetings via video, using KRS 61.826 as the requirements for conducting such meetings. Jon and I discussed the issue on Thursday afternoon and we’re fine, as long as (a) the boards and commissions comply with 61.286 and (b) using video teleconferencing only for the duration of the current state of emergency. Once that is lifted, the boards and commissions will return to their normal schedules and location.

Here’s the law:

61.826 Video teleconferencing of meetings
(1) A public agency may conduct any meeting through video teleconference.
(2) Notice of a video teleconference shall comply with the requirements of KRS 61.820 or 61.823 as appropriate. In addition, the notice of a video teleconference shall:
(a) Clearly state that the meeting will be a video teleconference; and
(b) Precisely identify a primary location of the video teleconference where all members can be seen and heard and the public may attend in accordance with KRS 61.840.
(3) The same procedures with regard to participation, distribution of materials, and other matters shall apply in all video teleconference locations.
(4) Any interruption in the video or audio broadcast of a video teleconference at any location shall result in the suspension of the video teleconference until the broadcast is restored.

STUDENT PUBLICATIONS — The news that universities are moving to online classes caused Kentucky Intercollegiate Press Association members to conference via email what other KIPA members are doing. If students aren’t going to be on campus, then the printed student newspaper lacks its usual audience. So it appears those publications will be moving to being an online publication for the immediate future. Not all responded but those that did said they were planning on doing their newspaper or news updates via online and already had the process and duties in place for their students.

STATE PRESS ASSOCIATIONS — With our major convention in January each year, it always causes the thought if winter weather will affect the event — either cancelling as it was in 1994 and 2016 or lacking attendance as has been the case if weather winter is forecast the week of the convention. Because of coronavirus, several state press associations have already postponed their convention scheduled for the spring with plans on holding it later in the year.

COURTS — Friday morning, Chief Justice John Minton asked courts across the state to close Monday and through April 10.

WHAT WILL THE NEWS BE? — KPA Vice President Regina Catlett pointed out earlier this morning that news may be somewhat hard to come by the next few weeks. With schools out of session, courts not in session, perhaps city councils/commissions, fiscal courts and school board not meeting, there may be a lack of news for us to cover.



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