History of the Texas Open Meetings Act
by Donald Ray Burger
Attorney at Law
In 1967 the Texas Legislature passed the first version of the Texas Open Meetings Act. The TOMA, as it is often called, was originally found in Vernon's Annotated Texas Statutes at Article 6252-17. The first version of TOMA took just three pages to print. Over the years it has grown in size and it has been renumbered and moved to Chapter 551 of the Government Code.
Many of these changes were made to thwart the efforts of various governmental bodies to avoid the instructions of the TOMA to hold meetings in the open.
Sometimes the Act was amended to "cure" a court's intrepretation of the TOMA as it existed prior to the amendment. This brings up an important point. When you read a case or Attorney General's opinion on the TOMA you need to pay particular attention to the version of the Act that was in effect on the date the incident giving rise to the lawsuit or opinion occurred. Be careful here. You are not looking for the date of the opinion. What you are looking for is the date of the incident discussed in the opinion. This is a very important distinction. Sometimes it is several years after an incident before the Court of Appeals actually decides a case. They have to decide their case based on the version of the law as it existed on the date of the act or meeting that gave rise to the lawsuit. The same is true for AG Opinions.
Because the TOMA has been amended so many times over the years, the version a particular court case or AG Opinion considered may no longer be the version your government officials must follow. Usually, however, later versions of the TOMA are stronger, not weaker, than earlier versions. Just be aware of this issue, and if a case or AG decision seems to go against you, check to see if the section involved has been strengthened by the current version of the TOMA.
Last Revised 2/15/03
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