Is texting hazardous to the process of lawmaking? The Texas Open meetings act requires that all Governmental meetings be held openly. The Legislative committee meetings at the Texas Statehouse are streamed and recorded, for anyone with an internet connection to observe. Anyone who has watched or participated these public meeting may notice that these meetings are long drawn out and mostly boring. The committee members are often bored and distracted. Not surprisingly there is a whole lot of texting going on. One may wonder if this texting is in itself relevant to the meeting and if it is, is it a violation of the Open Meetings Act at least in spirit. House Bill 2977 seeks to address this issue.
A bill by Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi , would make an addition to the Texas Open Meetings Act. And it would apply to any public meeting, whether it’s a House committee or a small-town city council meeting.
The measure, House Bill 2977, says an official would be committing an offense if he or she transmits an electronic message — including an email, text message, instant message or Internet posting — during a public meeting.
No penalty has been included in the bill. But Hunter said he’s still considering how to deal with violators.
Hunter, who chairs the powerful House Calendars Committee, said he had a few reasons for filing the bill.
“For one, it’s discourteous if you’re conducting business on a cellular phone or BlackBerry when somebody’s coming in to testify. You need to be focused on those people,” Hunter said.
But perhaps more to the point, Hunter is seeking to take the state’s open records and open meetings laws into the digital age.
These meetings are long, and some of this texting is likely phones home explaining they will be late. The bill is late getting in and both houses have a lot of ground to cover before the session is done. I believe it doesn’t stand a snowballs chance in Yuma this time around.
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