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Senate Bill 1297 - Online Message Board Discussions
Senate Bill 1297, a bill that passed during the Eighty-Third Legislative Session, adds a provision to the Texas Open Meetings Act that is effective September 1, 2013. This provision provides that communication between councilmembers about public business or public policy over which the council has supervision or control does not constitute a meeting if certain conditions are met. The communication must be:
Other than the exception created by S.B. 1297, city officials should remember that communications between a quorum of a city council about public business, no matter the forum or the time, can be a “meeting” to which the Open Meetings Act applies. If the Act applies to a discussion, an agenda must be posted 72 hours in advance, and the public must be able to attend. It is essentially impossible for a private Facebook post or discussion to meet those requirements.
As such, city councilmembers should avoid commenting on private Facebook posts related to city business if the discussion will ultimately involve a quorum. (Note: Less than a quorum can also violate the Act by having secret deliberations to circumvent the Act’s requirements. Thus, city officials should always use caution with social media.).
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