By Kelley Shannon
FOI Foundation of Texas
We at the FOI Foundation of Texas recognize the need to avoid large public gatherings right now during the coronavirus outbreak. Gov. Greg Abbott’s suspension of part of the Texas Open Meetings Act allows additional options for governments holding virtual meetings, either through telephone or videoconferencing.
Virtual meetings are already permitted under the law, but this action removes the requirement of a physical location for the public to observe the video or phone meeting. It also removes the requirement that a quorum of a governmental body be physically present in one location.
Members of the public will be able to observe – and interact with government officials as appropriate – remotely online or by listening by phone. The FOI Foundation encourages governments to offer both options when feasible to accommodate those who do not have home internet access or computers.
Our understanding is this is a temporary waiver during this current disaster declaration only. All other parts of the Open Meetings Act remain in force. Read the governor’s news release here.