Attorney General Greg Abbott is Backing Bill to Push Elected Officials' Written Debate Online

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Last week's City Council meeting, at which City Manager Mary Suhm was alternately grilled and applauded over her side deal to allow natural gas drilling on city parkland, was an amazing piece of political theater. How could it not be, what with Vonciel Jones Hill donning her preacher voice and comparing Suhm to Jesus on the cross?

But why does the spectacle have to stop in the council chambers? Why can't Hill and Angela Hunt trade barbs after-hours, in a public online forum updated in real time?

Soon, they may be able to. Attorney General Greg Abbott today threw his support behind a bill filed today that will, as he phrased it in a press release, "bring the Open Meetings Act into the 21st century." That sounds boring but the legislation, filed by Senator Kirk Watson, an Austin Democrat, would require that any written communication between members of a city council or other state or local governing body happening in an online forum be easily accessible by the public.

Current law requires that basically any meeting at which a majority of members of a governing body be open to the public -- with huge exceptions for private executive sessions -- but it says nothing about texts, instant messaging or email. Watson's bill addresses that by requiring such exchanges of information to take place in public view. Use of the message board would be limited to members of the governing body and select staff members, presumably to avoid contamination by the Internet.

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All I really want to see on the internet is a list of every person, every company, every lobbyist, and every PAC who actually paid (contribution, job for family member, junket, etc..) each senator or representative to introduce, support or oppose every piece of proposed legislation.

I would like to know, for every senator and representative, the names, titles and companies that employ any of their spouses, children or other relatives, limited only to businesses (and their owners) which hire lobbyists, contribute to PACs, or make direct contributions to senators and representatives to influence proposed legislation.

I don't really care if they post a transcript of all the mindless drivel that's said at the microphone during committees and floor debate. No one pays attention anyway. If you have ever been to a session of the legislature, you would know that when it's time to vote, the party whips hold up one or two fingers, which effectively directs other members of the whip's party how to vote.

scottindallas topcommenter

That's great news.  Even a broken clock (abbott) is right occasionally


I'm imagining these "forums" to be a lot like a particularly contentious Observer comment section, albeit with slightly more spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors. 

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