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Politics

Supreme Court Won't Hear Challenge to Open Meetings Act

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Envios/Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/envios/6071512063/

It’s the end of a nine-year legal battle over a Texas law requiring government meetings to be open and accessible to the public.  Today the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal that challenged the Texas Open Meetings Act

The Texas Municipal League argued the law violated free-speech rights, and that the punishments were too harsh: up to $500 fine and six months in jail for elected officials who deliberate together in secret. 

Former Texas solicitor general James Ho disagrees. He argued the case when it was before federal court.

“The whole purpose of the First Amendment is to protect citizens against government oppression. It’s not intended to protect government officials against citizen oversight," Ho said. 

The legislature regularly considers several open government bills each session, such as one filed this year by State Senator Kirk Watson (D-Austin). It  would allow elected officials to meet in online chat rooms that are publicly displayed and archived for later access. 

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