Texas' open meetings law debated at appeals court

By: JUAN A. LOZANO, Associated Press
By: JUAN A. LOZANO, Associated Press

HOUSTON (AP) - An attorney for 15 city leaders who are suing to declare part of the Texas Open Meetings Act unconstitutional says the law infringes on the free speech rights of officials through potential criminal penalties that promote censorship.

But an attorney with the office of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott says the act ensures the public is informed about how government operates.

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments Thursday in Houston in the lawsuit.

The 2009 suit is before the appeals court after a West Texas federal judge last year ruled the law doesn't muzzle the First Amendment right to free speech.

The appeals court will rule at a later date.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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  • by Joey Location: Denison on Apr 6, 2012 at 05:57 AM
    Yea, wilt, they want to have the ability to discuss and tentatively agree on matters without the benefit of public scrutiny. Violations to the PMA happen all the time. Did you ever notice how often governing bodies vote unanimously on complex issues without having any significant discussion of the issue in public? In those cases where there may be one dissenting vote you will notice how that one offical will give a very brief statement about why he plans to vote against the majority (that he somehow already knows exists even though there hasn't been any public discussion indicating his view is indeed in the minority), and a vote is taken without any further discussion. Violations of the act are usually not investigated to any degree, and in fact, not just anyone can file a complaint and expect to have it investigated. Often, any investigation is dragged out past the time when the offending parties have left office, and the investigation is dropped. Furthermore, whatever actions (laws, ordinances, expenditures) that occurred as a result of any violations of the act are seldom if ever rescinded. Even on matters that are permitted to be discussed behind closed doors, violations of the act routinely occur. This often involves governing bodies taking straw votes during closed session (an expressed violation of the act) before making the official vote in open session.
  • by wilt on Apr 5, 2012 at 03:52 PM
    No agency or Org. Federal, State, local or private should be allowed to have a meeting pertaining to anything that effects the public without being subject to keeping minutes for the meeting, making them available upon request and or allowing the public to attend. The article is vauge so its hard to tell what part of the open records act the are protesting but it sounds to me they want to hide something from the public.
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