Texas AG, Sen. Watson pitch online open meetings
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and Austin Sen. Kirk Watson are promoting a bill that would update Texas open meetings law to include online chatrooms.
Under the Open Meetings Act, a quorum of elected officials can’t meet to discuss official business without notifying and inviting the public. Under the proposed update to the law, elected officials would be able to host electronic meetings using online chatrooms which could be monitored by the public.
Watson, a former member of Austin City Council, said the update would speed up decision making and modernize Texas open meeting law.
“For more than four decades, Texas has had some of the strongest open government laws in the nation,” Abbott said in a statement Thursday. “Though these laws continue to protect the transparency that is so vital to democracy, the public always benefits when modern technology is harnessed to make government more accessible. Today, Senator Watson has taken a step in that very direction with a common sense proposal to bring the Open Meetings Act into the 21st Century.”
According to the bill, the electronic conversations would be displayed in real time and would be later archived for future review. No voting or action would be allowed during online sessions.
“Government should function efficiently and effectively, and the public should know as much as possible about what government is doing,” Watson said. “No matter where folks fall on the political spectrum, they should agree with both of those statements.”