Q: One of our local governmental entities, during a properly called open meeting, deleted comments posted on the livestream of that meeting as it was occurring. Is that allowed?
A: First, some background. House Bill 2840, which took effect on Sept. 1, 2019, relates to the right of a member of the public to address the governing body of a political subdivision at an open meeting of the body.
The bill amends the Texas Open Meetings Act, Government Code Chapter 551 by adding Section 551.007, Public Testimony, requiring most local governmental bodies to allow each member of the public who desires to address the body regarding any of its open meeting agenda items to address the body regarding the item at the meeting before or during the body’s consideration of the item.
Under HB 2840, a governmental body may adopt “reasonable rules” regarding the public’s right to address the body, including rules that limit the total amount of time a member of the public may address the body on a given item.
But under paragraph (e) of the bill, a governmental body is prohibited “from prohibiting public criticism of the governmental body, including criticism of any act, omission, policy, procedure, program or service.”
However, HB 2840 does not address the inclusion of comments in a format such as a news ticker, crawler or slide that might be used to scroll words across a television or computer screen during a live broadcast or a rebroadcast or a recording of the meeting.
For more on the topic of Internet broadcasts of open meetings, see Government Code Sec. 551.128. You will find, however, that like 551.107, that section does not expressly address the inclusion, editing or censoring of comments in a crawler.
Q: I need the list of new state laws that took effect on Jan. 1. Can I get the list directly from the State of Texas?
A: Yes. You will find the list at this link:
Q: In 2019, did the Texas Legislature change the law that prohibits the advertising of raffles and such?
A: Our Legislature did not change the Charitable Raffle Enabling Act — Occupations Code Sec. 2002.054, Restrictions on Raffle Promotion and Ticket Sales.
Now, to read up, catch up and keep up with state laws and attorney general opinions concerning raffles, contests, sweepstakes, giveaways and the like, here is a Texas State Law Library page for you to bookmark:
There, you will find a heap of high-quality, reliable information, including but not limited to:
• Texas Business and Commerce Code Chapter 621, the Contest and Gift Giveaway Act;
• Texas Business and Commerce Code Chapter 622, Provisions related to sweepstakes conducted through the mail;
• Texas Occupations Code Chapter 2002, the Charitable Raffle Enabling Act, describing the operation of raffles, including who is authorized to hold a raffle;
• Texas Constitution Art. 3 Sec. 47, Constitutional provisions related to lotteries and gift enterprises, including charitable raffles;
• Texas Attorney General opinions on amusements, including bingos, contests, gift giveaways, lotteries, raffles, sweepstakes and casino/poker nights;
• Information in “plain English” by the Federal Trade Commission on topics such as fake checks, international lottery scams, phone scams, text message prize scams and more;
• A 2005 blog post from the law firm Baker Botts titled “Companies Sponsoring Promotional Contests and Sweepstakes Need to Know the Rules of the Game;” and
• A link to “Pitfalls of Sweepstakes and Contests,” a 2007 article posted by the Jones Day law firm.
Q: I am doing research for a bond election story and I would like to compare our city to like-sized cities in similar markets. Is there an easy way to do that?
A: City, county and other population estimates and projections are waiting for you, thanks to the Texas Demographic Center, at:
Additionally, on Jan. 15, the Office of the Texas Comptroller emailed a tickler including information about its bond election results database.
The database — a comprehensive list of bond election results from Texas municipalities, counties, community college districts and school districts, is posted at the Comptroller’s Data Analysis and Transparency Division’s website:
As stated in the Comptroller’s Jan. 15 message, the Bond Election Database provides a current list of bonds, whether approved or defeated by voters, and the amount and purpose of each bond. FYI, the database is updated twice each year after the November and May elections.