HBA-TYH H.B. 156 76(R)BILL ANALYSIS Office of House Bill AnalysisH.B. 156 By: Wolens State Affairs 7/21/1999 Enrolled BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE A fundamental premise of the Texas Open Meetings Act is that all meetings of governmental bodies are open to the public unless an exception is specified by the Act or permitted by the Texas Constitution. Prior to the 76th Legislature, it was unclear whether the Act applied to informal meetings, such as staff briefings. At least one state board has conducted its deliberations as part of staff briefings that are closed to the public. H.B. 156 amends the definition of "meeting" to include an informal "gathering," which is any meeting of a quorum of members of a governmental body and a third party to discuss public business or public policy over which the governmental body has supervision or control. RULEMAKING AUTHORITY It is the opinion of the Office of House Bill Analysis that this bill does not expressly delegate any additional rulemaking authority to a state officer, department, agency, or institution. SECTION BY SECTION ANALYSIS SECTION 1. Amends Section 551.001(4), Government Code, to expand the definition of "meeting" to include, except as otherwise provided by this subdivision, a gathering: that is conducted by the governmental body or for which the governmental body is responsible, that has a quorum of members of the governmental body present, that has been called by the governmental body, and that the members receive information from, give information to, ask questions of, or receive questions from any third person, including an employee of the governmental body, about the public business or public policy over which the governmental body has supervision or control. SECTION 2. Amends Section 551.075, Government Code, as follows: Sec. 551.075. New title: CONFERENCE RELATING TO INVESTMENTS AND POTENTIAL INVESTMENTS ATTENDED BY BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF TEXAS GROWTH FUND; CLOSED MEETING. (a) Provides that this chapter does not require the board of trustees of the Texas growth fund, rather than a governmental body, to confer with one or more employees of the Texas growth fund or with a third party, rather than employees of the governmental body, in an open meeting if the only purpose of the conference is to: _receive information from the employees of the Texas growth fund or the third party relating to an investment or a potential investment by the Texas growth fund in: a private business entity, if disclosure of the information would give advantage to a competitor; or a business entity whose securities are publicly traded, if the investment or potential investment is not required to be registered under Section 78a et seq., Title 15, U.S.C. (Securities Exchange Act of 1934), and its subsequent amendments, and if disclosure of the information would give advantage to a competitor; or _question the employees of the Texas growth fund or the third party regarding an investment or potential investment, if disclosure of the information contained in the questions or answers would give advantage to a competitor. (b) Replaces reference to members of the governmental body with members of the board of trustees of the Texas growth fund. (c) Defines "Texas growth fund." SECTION 3. Amends Section 551.144, Government Code, by adding Subsection (c), as follows: (c) Provides that it is an affirmative defense to prosecution under this section that the member of the governmental body acted in reasonable reliance on a court order or a written interpretation of this chapter (Open Meetings) contained in an opinion of a court of record, the attorney general, or the attorney for the governmental body. SECTION 4.Emergency clause. Effective date: upon passage.