Open Meetings Act and Candidate Forums
As the fall campaign season approaches, new candidates and incumbents seeking elected municipal positions will be asked to participate in a variety of political events. Candidate forums are just one example. For new candidates, the Texas Open Meetings Act (Act) does not apply because they are not yet members of the city council. For incumbents, however, the Act does apply and can lead to inadvertent “meetings” at candidate forums.
The good news in relation to candidate forums is the passage of S.B. 1440, which becomes effective September 1, 2017. The bill provides that the term “meeting” does not include the attendance by a quorum of a governmental body at a candidate forum, appearance or debate to inform the electorate, if formal action is not taken and any discussion of public business is incidental to the forum, appearance, or debate. Passage of this League priority bill ensures that incumbents are treated the same under the Open Meetings Act as challengers.
City officials should consult with local legal counsel on the specifics of any particular event.
TML member cities may use the material herein for any purpose. No other person or entity may reproduce, duplicate, or distribute any part of this document without the written authorization of the Texas Municipal League.