Missouri lawmakers are considering changes to the Sunshine Law they say would help keep public meetings safe amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Missouri lawmakers are considering changes to the Sunshine Law they say would help keep public meetings safe amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold, is working on a bill to allow governments to close physical meetings to the public during a disease outbreak, so long as the meetings are accessible in other ways.

Under the latest draft, governmental bodies closing a meeting in an outbreak or “public health crisis” would have to livestream it online or record it and make it available later.

Entities like city councils, school boards and the legislature would also have to accept written testimony from the public and have it presented at the closed meeting.

A House committee is set to consider Coleman’s bill Monday morning.

The Missouri Press Association has been keeping a close eye on Coleman’s work, mostly because her bill originally made more significant changes to the state’s open records law that the association said could limit public access to their government.

Coleman said the concerns advocates had are gone from the latest version, though, and further tweaks could be on the way to prevent governments from abusing the changes.

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, said one thing she’d like to see is an amendment requiring the governor to declare a state of emergency on a disease outbreak before public bodies could close meetings.

Jean Maneke, an attorney and open records law expert with the Missouri Press Association, said she’s also hoping to see a change allowing credentialed reporters to attend meetings closed for outbreaks to ensure some public representation.

The legislation is House Bill 2725.