HBA-TYH C.S.H.B. 156 76(R)BILL ANALYSIS Office of House Bill AnalysisC.S.H.B. 156 By: Wolens State Affairs 3/17/1999 Committee Report (Substituted) 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. It is unclear whether the Act applies 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. C.S.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 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. Repealer: Section 551.075 (Conference With Employees; Closed Meeting), Government Code. This section states that a governmental body is not required to confer with employees of the governmental body in an open meeting in order to receive information from or question employees. SECTION 3.Emergency clause. Effective date: upon passage. COMPARISON OF ORIGINAL TO SUBSTITUTE C.S.H.B. 156 differs from the original by deleting SECTION 2 of the original, which stated that this chapter does not prohibit a member or group of members of a governing board of an institution of higher education from gathering in numbers less than a quorum for purposes of receiving information from any third person. C.S.H.B. 156 redesignates SECTION 3 and SECTION 4 of the original bill to SECTION 2 and SECTION 3, respectively.