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Some Public Meetings May Move Online

Nathan Bernier/KUT News

A bill filed in the Texas Senate Thursday would allow elected officials to hold discussions online instead of in person. It already has the support of two state leaders from two parties.

Right now, if elected officials discussed government matters online they’d be violating the Open Meetings Act. State Sen. Kirk Watson, a Democrat and former Austin mayor, wants to change that by letting elected officials legally meet in online chat rooms, if it’s shown live on the Internet and archived for the public.

Watson says it would make elected officials more efficient and government more open. “It springs from a sincere desire to help public servants do their work and help the public know what that work entails,” he said.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican, is responsible for enforcing open meeting laws. He says he likes that the bill is not an “unfunded mandate.”

“If you’re a governmental body you’re not going to have to do this,” Abbott said. “However, hopefully you will embrace it as a step in the right direction for your community.”

Elected officials would still have to meet in person and in public for actual voting.

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