Bye-Bye Sunshine: Texas Cities Fight Open Meetings

Whether you like it or not, your local tax dollars are subsidizing an effort to effectively gut the state’s open meetings laws. The Texas Municipal League, which is funded by local governments using the taxpayers’ dollars, is working vigorously to gut laws that have given Texans access to local government. This is the same entity that wants to raise taxes without voter restraint; now apparently they want to make such decisions without voter involvement.

The state’s Open Meetings Act makes it illegal for elected officials to meet for secret deliberations. Punishment can include up to a $500 fine and six months in jail.

Apparently the more than 1,000 cities paying into the Texas Municipal League don’t like the pesky requirement that they cannot meet in private to make public decisions. They’d much rather meet in secret, it seems.

Or, it is perhaps more accurate to say there doesn’t seem to be a single city or councilman opposing this assault by TML on the public’s right to be engaged in local government.

A resolution was recently passed by TML — at the behest of the city of Sugar Land — demanding that the Texas’ open meetings laws be gutted. It seems TML members want “less restrictive penalties.” Presumably so local government officials can meet in private without fear.

According to Fred Hartman, vice chairman at Hartman Newspapers and chairman of the Texas Daily Newspaper Association’s Legislative Advisory Committee, the cities of Alpine, Rockport and Pflugerville are planning to file a lawsuit calling the 30-year-old law unconstitutional. Residents in those cities must be so proud: their city fathers are using tax dollars to file this lawsuit against the interests of their own citizens!

Remember that the Texas Municipal League is the same entity that opposes taxpayer protection and transparency for reasons of alleged “local control.” Whatever good the Texas Municipal League may have provided in the past, their usefulness is long gone and now seem focused only on undermining the rights of the people.

It appears the legislative agenda of the TML is to lock citizens out of the decision-making process, while still treating our homes, businesses and savings accounts as their ATM.

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Michael Quinn Sullivan

Michael is the CEO of Empower Texans. A graduate of Texas A&M, former newspaper reporter, one-time Capitol Hill staffer, think tank vice president, and an Eagle Scout, Sullivan is married with three children. He divides his time between the Metroplex, the rest of Texas, and Austin.

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