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Bill would require city, school board meetings to be broadcast online
Governmental bodies across the state may soon be forced to broadcast their meetings over the Internet if a bill filed by Denton County state Rep. Pat Fallon is signed into law.
Fallon (R-Frisco) authored H.B. 889 to require governing bodies with populations of more than 50,000 to use the Internet to distribute video and audio of their meetings. The meetings would not have to be shown live, but would have to be uploaded within seven calendar days. Meetings would also be required to be archived online.
“It has been almost 20 years since the Internet has been a household word and it is high time for cities of some size to do this,” Fallon said. “We work for the taxpayer and we are supposed to be accountable and responsible to them. If they are paying the salaries and functions of these governments, then they should be able to see what is said without having to go to the meeting.”
The bill, if signed into law, would only apply to regular meetings. It would not apply to work sessions or special-called meetings, or meetings of non-elected officials such as planning and zoning commissions.
With some school districts and counties covering large amounts of land, Fallon said it can be difficult for people to attend meetings. He said the bill would also allow people to view past meetings in order to learn more about important issues.
“When I was in Frisco, Exide became a very important issue and got on everyone’s radar screen,” he said. “If you saw the council was discussing it you could go to our website and view past meetings to see what had been said previously. If you didn’t like what a member said, you could vote against them. If you did like what they said, you could support them.”
Fallon said the impact on entities should be negligible. Some cities such as Plano and Frisco post videos online with linked shortcuts to specific agenda items, but this amount of sophistication would not be necessary, Fallon said. Instead, posting the video on a file-sharing website such as YouTube would suffice.
“We want it to be a negligible fiscal impact,” Fallon said. “You can do this cheaply by simply buying a camera and tripod and posting the video to the Internet. The cost will be minimal and it will be money extremely well spent.”
The bill would not affect the cities of Plano, Frisco or Allen, or their respective school districts, since they are already in compliance.
Things are different in McKinney. While the city shows meetings online, the school district does not. Cody Cunningham, MISD spokesman, said the meetings are not available online since they are not recorded, adding “there is no particular reason we do not video the meetings.”
Fallon, whose district includes the Denton County portions of Frisco and Plano, as well as the cities of Little Elm and The Colony, said he feels confident the bill will be passed out of the technology committee, where he, as well as one joint author and one co-author, are members.
From there the bill would go to the full house, where it would need support from Democrats to pass, something Fallon said he believes he will have. Of the 28 representatives who have signed on in support of the bill, 20 are Republicans (71 percent) and eight are Democrats (29 percent). This is a similar breakdown to the house as a whole, where 63 percent of the members are Republicans and 37 percent are Democrats.