Q: I heard recently that the Governor’s suspension of certain Texas Open Meetings Act requirements is coming to an end and we will be required soon to conduct Board of Trustees meeting in person. Is that true?
A: Yes. While on July 1, 2021, the Governor of Texas granted an additional 30-day extension of the State’s initial suspension of certain Texas Open Meetings Act requirements, school boards should begin planning to resume in-person meetings soon, as the suspension will be lifted as of September 1, 2021.
You will recall that on March 13, 2020, the Governor of Texas issued a disaster proclamation in response to the Covid-19 pandemic which suspended, in part, “any regulatory statute prescribing the procedures for conduct of state business that would in any way prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action in coping with this disaster.” This included the temporary suspension of certain provisions of the Texas Open Meetings Act related to officials and members of the public being physically present at a specified location. As a result, governing boards across the state have been permitted to conduct business via telephone or videoconference. This suspension has been renewed by Governor Abbott for additional 30-day periods each month since its inception in March 2020, and it is our best guess that this renewal will likely continue in effect through the month of August.
With the most recent renewal, however, Governor Abbott approved a request by the Office of the Attorney General to lift the suspension of the TOMA, effective September 1, 2021. This means that as of September 1, 2021, all provisions of the Texas Open Meetings Act will be back in effect and governmental entities subject to the Act, including school districts, must conduct their meetings in full compliance, as statutorily written. The public notice regarding the return to full compliance with the TOMA, issued by the Office of the Attorney General, may be found here. No additional extensions are anticipated after this date.
As an important reminder, other requirements of the Texas Open Meetings Act, not currently subject to suspensions, remain in place and in full effect. A listing of those specific, suspended provisions may be found here.
For specific questions or additional information regarding the lifting of the Texas Open Meetings Act suspensions, or penalties associated with violation of the TOMA, please consult with your local school law attorney.