Open Government

H.B. 367 (Martinez/Davis) – Public Information:  provides that:  (1) if a legislator or the lieutenant governor discloses to a governmental unit that is a “covered entity” for purposes of medical records privacy all or part of certain communications between the legislator or lieutenant governor and residents of this state, the record or information in the possession of the governmental unit is confidential and may only be disclosed to another person to the extent that the member of the legislature or lieutenant governor elects to disclose the record or information; (2) if a governmental unit that is a covered entity for purposes of medical records privacy receives a request for public information and the responsive information is information described in (1), above, the governmental unit must promptly notify the legislator or lieutenant governor that the request was received.  (Effective immediately.)

H.B. 2414 (Button/Deuell) – Open Meetings:  provides that:  (1) for purposes of the Open Meetings Act, “videoconference call” is defined to mean a communication conducted between two or more persons in which one or more of the participants communicate with the other participants through duplex audio and video signals transmitted over a telephone or data network; (2) a member or employee of a governmental body may participate remotely in a meeting of the governmental body by means of a videoconference call if the video and audio feed of the member’s or employee’s participation, as applicable, is broadcast live at the meeting and complies with the provisions of the bill; (3) a member of a governmental body who participates in a meeting as provided by (2), above, shall be counted as present at the meeting for all purposes; (4) a meeting of a governmental body may be held by videoconference call only if: (a) the governmental body makes available to the public at least one suitable physical space located in or within a reasonable distance of the geographic jurisdiction, if any, of the governmental body that is equipped with videoconference equipment that provides an audio and video display, as well as a camera and microphone by which a member of the public can provide testimony or otherwise actively participate in the meeting; (b) the member of the governmental body presiding over the meeting is present at that physical space; and (c) any member of the public present at that physical space is provided the opportunity to participate in the meeting by means of a videoconference call in the same manner as a person who is physically present at a meeting of the governmental body that is not conducted by videoconference call; (5) the notice of a meeting to be held by videoconference call must specify as a location of the meeting the location of the physical space described by (4)(a), above; (6) the physical location specified under (4)(a), above, shall have two-way audio and video communication with each member who is participating by videoconference call during the entire meeting, and that each participant in the videoconference call, while speaking, shall be clearly visible and audible to each other participant and, during the open portion of the meeting, to the members of the public in attendance at the physical location and at any other location of the meeting that is open to the public; (7) the audio and video signals perceptible by members of the public at each location of the meeting be of sufficient quality so that members of the public at each location  can observe the demeanor and hear the voice of each participant in the open portion of the meeting; and (8) essentially the same provisions as those found in S.B. 1297, summarized below and related to online communications amongst members of a governmental body, are included in the bill.  (Effective immediately.)

S.B. 457 (Rodriguez/Márquez) – Autopsy Records:  authorizes a governmental body to withhold a photograph or x-ray included in certain autopsy reports without requesting a decision from the attorney general.  (Effective September 1, 2013.)

S.B. 458 (Rodriguez/Márquez) – Motor Vehicle Records:  adds motor vehicle title or registration information to the list of confidential motor vehicle records that a governmental body may redact without requesting a decision from the attorney general.  (Effective immediately.)

S.B. 471 (Ellis/Harper-Brown) – Recording of Meeting:  defines the term “recording,” in regard to meetings, to mean a tangible medium on which audio or a combination of audio and video is recorded, including a disc, tape, wire, film, electronic storage drive, or other medium now existing or later developed.  (Effective immediately.)

S.B. 983 (Ellis/Harper-Brown) – Public Information Lawsuits: provides that: (1) in a suit filed under the Public Information Act, the information at issue (i.e., the information held by a governmental body that forms the basis of the suit) may be filed with the court for in camera inspection; (2) a court, upon receipt of information for in camera inspection under (1), above, must:  (a) enter an order preventing the release to or access by any person other than the court, a reviewing court of appeals, or parties permitted to inspect the information pursuant to a protective order; (b) append to the order the information at issue and transmit it to the clerk for filing as “information at issue;” (c) maintain the information in a sealed envelope or in a manner that precludes disclosure; and (d) transmit the information to any court of appeals as part of the clerk’s record; and (3) information filed with the court under (1), above, does not constitute “court records” and shall not be made available by the clerk or any custodian of record for public inspection.  (Effective September 1, 2013.)

S.B. 1297 (Watson/Branch) – Electronic Communications:  in regard to the Open Meetings Act, this bill:  (1) provides that a communication or exchange of information between members of a governmental body about public business or public policy over which the governmental body has supervision or control does not constitute a meeting or deliberation for purposes of the Act if:  (a) the communication is in writing; (b) the writing is posted to an online message board of similar Internet application that is viewable and searchable by the public; and (c) the communication is displayed in real time and displayed on the online message board or similar Internet application for no less than 30 days after the communication is first posted; (2) allows a governmental body to have only one online message board or Internet application as described in (1), above, and requires that it be owned or controlled by the governmental body, prominently displayed on the body’s primary Internet web page, and no more than one click away from the body’s primary Internet web page; (3) allows the online message board or Internet application described in (1), above, to be used only by: (a) members of the governmental body; or (b) staff members of the body who have received specific authorization from  a member of the body, and who include their name and title in the post; (4) requires a governmental body that removes from the online message board or Internet application described in (1), above, a communication that has been posted for at least 30 days to maintain the posting for a period of six years, and provides that such information is public information under the Act; and (5) prohibits a governmental body from voting or taking any action required to be taken at a meeting by posting a communication on an online message board or similar Internet application.  (Effective September 1, 2013.)

S.B. 1368 (Davis/Alvarado) – Public Information Act:  provides that: (1) in addition to the definition in current law, “public information” means information that is written, produced, collected, assembled, or maintained under a law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business “for a governmental body and the governmental body: (a) owns the information; (b) has a right of access to the information; or (c) spends or contributes public money for the purpose of writing, producing, collecting, assembling, or maintaining the information;” (2) in addition to the definition in current law, “public information” means information that is written, produced, collected, assembled, or maintained under a law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business “by an individual officer or employee of a governmental body in the officer’s or employee’s official capacity and the information pertains to official business of the governmental body;” (3) information is in connection with the transaction of official business if the information is created by, transmitted to, received by, or maintained by an officer or employee of the governmental body in the officer’s or employee’s official capacity, or by a person or entity performing official business or a governmental function on behalf of a governmental body, and pertains to official business of the governmental body; (4) the definition of “public information” applies to and includes any electronic communication created, transmitted, received, or maintained on any device if the communication is in connection with the transaction of official business; (5) in addition to definitions in current law, the media on which public information is recorded include and device that can store an electronic signal any physical material on which information may be recorded; (6) in addition to definitions in current law, the general forms in which the media containing public information exist include email, Internet posting, text message, instant message, other electronic communication; and (7) “official business” means any matter over which a governmental body has any authority, administrative duties, or advisory duties.  (Effective September 1, 2013.)

S.B. 1512 (Ellis/Vo) – Crime Scene Images: makes a sensitive crime scene image confidential and not subject to disclosure under the Public Information Act. (Effective September 1, 2013.)

TML member cities may use the material herein for any purpose. 
No other person or entity may reproduce, duplicate, or distribute any part 
of this document without the written authorization of the Texas Municipal League.

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