PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Opinion

March 13, 2013

Keep Texas government operating in the sunshine

PORT ARTHUR — If Port Arthur Mayor Deloris “Bobbie” Prince tweeted her opinion about an item on the upcoming council agenda, and four members of the council followed her Twitter account and read her tweet, would they have violated the spirit of the Texas Open Meetings Law? That law forbids a quorum of a governmental body from discussing public business without following specific procedures for informing the public that a meeting will take place.

This week, known as Sunshine Week to focus attention on laws guaranteeing the public access the governmental bodies they fund, is an appropriate time for Texas lawmakers to consider modernizing the state’s Open Meetings Act, one of the best in the nation but behind the times in terms of the new ways we have to communicate with each other.

Another what if: Imagine the Port Arthur ISD school board was considering a change in curriculum and Trustee Gregory Flores posted on his Facebook page how he thought the superintendent’s recommendation was, well, no matter what he thought of it, if he posted with his cell phone how he intended to vote and other members of the board received an alert on their cell phones, they clearly would be communication about an item of public business outside the meeting. But there’s nothing in the 40-year-old Open Meetings Act about the Internet or social media.

Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, has proposed legislation that would take steps toward bringing the Texas Open Meetings law into the Internet age. His proposal would allow governing boards to exchange thoughts and ideas in an electronic forum that is open and accessible to the public, much like people share ideas on Facebook.

The bill would allow public officials to communicate, and would allow the public access to the conversation. Even though the bill would allow communication between officials, they could not take official action except in an open meeting.

Changes in the way we communicate are taking place at a rapid pace, and they change the way business is conducted. E-mail is regularly used in a business setting. Facebook and Twitter are becoming common ways for businesses to communicate with their customers. It’s natural for those methods of communication to be used in government and by elected officials.

Texas has a tradition of open government that we must safeguard. We encourage our legislators to join with Sen. Watson to make sure the Open Meetings Act keeps pace with this new age of online communication. That will ensure government in this state continues operating in the sunshine.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Victimized by the 'marriage penalty'

    In a few short months, I'll pass the milestone that every little girl dreams of: the day she swears - before family and God, in sickness and in health, all in the name of love - that she's willing to pay a much higher tax rate.

    April 16, 2014

  • taylor.armerding.jpg Obama's equal pay exaggeration leads us all into danger

    The president's claims of national shame over gender-based pay inequity spring from distorted calculations, as well as some convenient political math.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Lindley, Tom.jpg Taking someone out to the ballgame gets expensive

    Families in big-league cities like Boston and New York pay steep prices to catch a baseball game. It's not so expensive everywhere - especially if you're frugal.
     

    April 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • Don't blame voters for low turnout

    Suppose nobody votes this year. On Nov. 4 the doors to the polling places are thrown open, and there isn't anyone in line. No absentee ballots are filed. No one litigates, charging either fraud or discrimination, because there weren't any voters.
    It won't happen. But if it did, pundits and activists would surely blame public apathy for such a catastrophe. I'd name a different culprit: the major parties, their candidates and their acolytes in the news media.

    April 7, 2014

  • taylor.armerding.jpg Voters beware of oligarchs and bogeymen

    Scaring voters to distract them from issues is a tired - and bipartisan - ploy sure to be in heavy rotation this campaign season.

    April 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • taylor.armerding.jpg Legal marijuana can be government's new cash crop

    Officials holding out against legalized marijuana may "evolve" their thinking because of one number: Colorado says it gathered $2 million in taxes from pot shops in January, as business was just getting started.

    March 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sherry Sad story shared by too many

    March 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Lindley, Tom.jpg Young athletes face alarming risk of head injuries

    Concussions are a growing injury among young athletes and cause for alarm. Reasons for the trend are varied, but we at least need better data and more study of how to avoid them.

    March 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • taylor.armerding.jpg Banning a 'B-word' teaches girls the wrong lesson

    Striking the word "bossy" from the language doesn't help young girls learn to speak up or become leaders. It teaches them how to be, well, bossy.

    March 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Wild Hog politics tearing Port Arthur

    February 4, 2014

Video
Facebook
Sports Tweets
Photos