Bill Text: TX HB3793 | 2021-2022 | 87th Legislature | Introduced


Bill Title: Relating to remote meetings under the open meetings law.

Spectrum: Partisan Bill (Republican 1-0)

Status: (Introduced - Dead) 2021-03-22 - Referred to State Affairs [HB3793 Detail]

Download: Texas-2021-HB3793-Introduced.html
  87R5267 JON-D
 
  By: Shaheen H.B. No. 3793
 
 
 
A BILL TO BE ENTITLED
 
AN ACT
  relating to remote meetings under the open meetings law.
         BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:
         SECTION 1.  Section 551.125, Government Code, is amended to
  read as follows:
         Sec. 551.125.  MEETING FROM REMOTE LOCATIONS BY TELEPHONE
  CONFERENCE CALL [OTHER GOVERNMENTAL BODY]. (a) Except as
  otherwise provided by this subchapter, this chapter does not
  prohibit a governmental body from holding an open or closed meeting
  from one or more remote locations by telephone conference call.
         (b)  A meeting held by telephone conference call may be held
  only if:
               (1)  [an emergency or public necessity exists within
  the meaning of Section 551.045 of this chapter; and
               [(2)]  the convening at one location of a quorum of the
  governmental body is difficult or impossible; or
               (2) [(3)]  the meeting is held by an advisory board.
         (c)  The telephone conference call meeting is subject to the
  notice requirements applicable to other meetings except as
  otherwise provided by Subsection (d).
         (d)  The notice of the telephone conference call meeting
  must:
               (1)  include the statement "Telephone conference call
  under Section 551.125, Government Code" in lieu of the place of the
  meeting;
               (2)  list each physical location where members of the
  public may listen to or participate in the meeting, including:
                     (A)  any location that is open to the public where
  a member of the governmental body intends to participate in the
  meeting; and
                     (B)  any facility provided by the governmental
  body for members of the public to listen to the meeting or provide
  testimony;
               (3)  include access information for an audio feed of
  the meeting; and
               (4)  if applicable, include instructions for members of
  the public to provide testimony to the governmental body [specify
  as the location of the meeting the location where meetings of the
  governmental body are usually held].
         (e)  Any method of access that is provided to the public for
  listening to or participating in the telephone conference call
  meeting must be widely available at no cost to the public,
  including:
               (1)  a toll-free telephone number; or 
               (2)  a free, widely available computer application that
  can be installed on:
                     (A)  a mobile telephone;
                     (B)  a computer;
                     (C)  an Internet-connected television; or 
                     (D)  a similar, widely available electronic
  device.
         (f) [(e)]  Each part of the telephone conference call
  meeting that is required to be open to the public shall be audible
  to the public using the access information described by Subsection
  (d) [at the location specified in the notice of the meeting as the
  location of the meeting] and shall be recorded. The recording shall
  be made available to the public.
         (g) [(f)]  The [location designated in the notice as the
  location of the meeting shall provide two-way communication during
  the entire telephone conference call meeting and the]
  identification of each party to the telephone conference shall be
  clearly stated prior to speaking.
         (h)  If the governmental body prepares an agenda packet that
  would have been distributed to members of the public at a
  face-to-face meeting, the governmental body shall make the packet
  available electronically so that members of the public listening
  remotely can follow along with the meeting.
         SECTION 2.  Section 551.127, Government Code, is amended to
  read as follows:
         Sec. 551.127.  MEETING FROM REMOTE LOCATIONS BY 
  VIDEOCONFERENCE CALL. (a) Except as otherwise provided by this
  section, this chapter does not prohibit a governmental body from
  holding an open or closed meeting from one or more remote locations
  by videoconference call.
         (b) [(a-1)]  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 and, if
  applicable, video feed of the member's or employee's participation
  [, as applicable, is broadcast live at the meeting and] complies
  with the provisions of this section.
         (c) [(a-2)]  A member of a governmental body who
  participates in a meeting as provided by Subsection (b) [(a-1)]
  shall be counted as present at the meeting for all purposes.
         (d) [(a-3)]  A member of a governmental body who
  participates in a meeting by videoconference call shall be
  considered absent from any portion of the meeting during which
  audio [or video] communication with the member is lost or
  disconnected. The governmental body may continue the meeting only
  if members in a number sufficient to constitute a quorum of the body
  remain audible and visible to each other and, during the open
  portion of the meeting, to the public [remains present at the
  meeting location or, if applicable, continues to participate in a
  meeting conducted under Subsection (c)].
         [(b)  A meeting may be held by videoconference call only if a
  quorum of the governmental body is physically present at one
  location of the meeting, except as provided by Subsection (c).
         [(c)  A meeting of a state governmental body or a
  governmental body that extends into three or more counties may be
  held by videoconference call only if the member of the governmental
  body presiding over the meeting is physically present at one
  location of the meeting that is open to the public during the open
  portions of the meeting.]
         (e) [(d)]  A meeting held by videoconference call is subject
  to the notice requirements applicable to other meetings except as
  otherwise provided by Subsection (f) [in addition to the notice
  requirements prescribed by this section].
         (f) [(e)]  The notice of a meeting to be held by
  videoconference call must:
               (1)  include the statement "Videoconference call under
  Section 551.127, Government Code" in lieu of the place of the
  meeting;
               (2)  list each physical location where members of the
  public may observe or participate in the meeting, including:
                     (A)  any location that is open to the public where
  a member of the governmental body intends to participate in the
  meeting; and
                     (B)  any facility provided by the governmental
  body for members of the public to observe the meeting or provide
  testimony; 
               (3)  include access information for both audio-only and
  audiovisual feeds of the meeting; and
               (4)  if applicable, include instructions for members of
  the public to provide testimony to the governmental body [specify
  as a location of the meeting the location where a quorum of the
  governmental body will be physically present and specify the intent
  to have a quorum present at that location, except that the notice of
  a meeting to be held by videoconference call under Subsection (c)
  must specify as a location of the meeting the location where the
  member of the governmental body presiding over the meeting will be
  physically present and specify the intent to have the member of the
  governmental body presiding over the meeting present at that
  location. The location where the member of the governmental body
  presiding over the meeting is physically present shall be open to
  the public during the open portions of the meeting].
         (g)  Any method of access that is provided to the public for
  the purpose of observing or participating in a meeting held under
  this section must be widely available at no cost to the public,
  including: 
               (1)  a toll-free telephone number; or 
               (2)  a free, widely available computer application that
  can be installed on:
                     (A)  a mobile telephone;
                     (B)  a computer;
                     (C)  an Internet-connected television; or 
                     (D)  a similar, widely available electronic
  device.
         (h) [(f)]  Each portion of a meeting held by videoconference
  call that is required to be open to the public shall be [visible
  and] audible and, if applicable, visible to the public using the
  access information described by Subsection (f) [at the location
  specified under Subsection (e)]. If a problem occurs that causes a
  meeting to no longer be [visible and] audible to the public [at that
  location], the meeting must be recessed until the problem is
  resolved. If the problem is not resolved in six hours or less, the
  meeting must be adjourned.
         (i) [(g)]  The governmental body shall make at least an audio
  recording of the meeting. The recording shall be made available to
  the public.
         (j)  [(h) The location specified under Subsection (e), and
  each remote location from which a member of the governmental body
  participates, shall have two-way audio and video communication with
  each other location during the entire meeting.] The face of each
  participant in the videoconference call who is participating in the
  call using video communication, while that participant is speaking,
  shall be clearly visible, and the voice audible, to each other
  participant and, during the open portion of the meeting, to the
  members of the public, including [in attendance at the physical
  location described by Subsection (e) and] at any [other] location
  described by Subsection (f)(2) [of the meeting that is open to the
  public].
         (k)  A participant in the videoconference call using solely
  audio communication:
               (1)  shall, while the participant is speaking, be
  clearly audible to each other participant and, during the open
  portion of the meeting, to the members of the public, including at
  any location described by Subsection (f)(2); and
               (2)  must be clearly identified before speaking.
         (l) [(i)]  The Department of Information Resources by rule
  shall specify minimum technical quality standards for [audio and
  video signals at] a meeting held by videoconference call. [The
  quality of the audio and video signals perceptible at each location
  of the meeting must meet or exceed those standards.]
         (m) [(j)]  The audio and video signals perceptible by
  members of the public using the access information described under
  Subsection (f) [at each location of the meeting described by
  Subsection (h)] must be of sufficient quality so that members of the
  public [at each location] can observe the demeanor or [and] hear the
  voice, as applicable, of each participant in the open portion of the
  meeting.
         (n) [(k)]  Without regard to whether a member of the
  governmental body is participating in a meeting from a remote
  location by videoconference call, a governmental body may allow a
  member of the public to testify at a meeting from a remote location
  by videoconference call.
         (o)  A governmental body that is holding a meeting by
  videoconference call where public testimony is taken shall allow a
  member of the public to testify from a remote location using video
  or audio communication.
         (p)  If the governmental body prepares an agenda packet that
  would have been distributed to members of the public at a
  face-to-face meeting, the governmental body shall make the packet
  available electronically so that members of the public observing
  remotely can follow along with the meeting.
         SECTION 3.  Section 551.131(d), Government Code, is amended
  to read as follows:
         (d)  A meeting held by telephone conference call must
  otherwise comply with the procedures under Sections 551.125(c),
  (d), [(e), and] (f), and (g).
         SECTION 4.  Section 61.06641(i), Education Code, is amended
  to read as follows:
         (i)  Notwithstanding Chapter 551, Government Code, or any
  other law, the advisory council may meet by telephone conference
  call, videoconference, or other similar telecommunication method.
  A meeting held by telephone conference call, videoconference, or
  other similar telecommunication method is subject to the
  requirements of Sections 551.125(c), (d), (f), and (g)
  [551.125(c)-(f)], Government Code.
         SECTION 5.  Section 81.406(b), Health and Safety Code, is
  amended to read as follows:
         (b)  The task force may meet telephonically in accordance
  with Section 551.125 [551.125(b)(3)], Government Code.
         SECTION 6.  Section 117.056(b), Health and Safety Code, is
  amended to read as follows:
         (b)  To ensure appropriate representation from all areas of
  this state, the committee may meet by videoconference or telephone
  conference call. A meeting held by videoconference or telephone
  conference call under this subsection must comply with the
  requirements applicable to a telephone conference call under
  Sections 551.125(c), (d), [(e), and] (f), and (g), Government Code.  
  Sections 551.125(b) and 551.127, Government Code, do not apply to
  the committee.
         SECTION 7.  Section 370.262(a), Transportation Code, is
  amended to read as follows:
         (a)  Chapter 551, Government Code, does not prohibit any open
  or closed meeting of the board, a committee of the board, or the
  staff, or any combination of the board or staff, from being held by
  telephone conference call. The board may hold an open or closed
  meeting by telephone conference call subject to the requirements of
  Sections 551.125(c), (d), (f), and (g) [551.125(c)-(f)],
  Government Code, but is not subject to the requirements of
  Subsection (b) of that section.
         SECTION 8.  This Act takes effect immediately if it receives
  a vote of two-thirds of all the members elected to each house, as
  provided by Section 39, Article III, Texas Constitution.  If this
  Act does not receive the vote necessary for immediate effect, this
  Act takes effect September 1, 2021.
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