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Zaffirini files bills aimed at preserving transparency

Friday, March 5, 2021 by Elizabeth Pagano

Just about a year into the Covid-19 pandemic, state Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) has filed a series of bills that address how municipalities are handling open government issues under a constant state of emergency in which public meetings are held over videoconferencing software. The seven bills, which address a variety of issues, were filed individually and also bundled into Senate Bill 923 as an omnibus bill. If passed, meetings broadcast live and held by videoconference would have to provide video and audio feeds of the meeting online and allow the public to participate via videoconference, and open meetings will be available to the public within 24 hours of their conclusion. The legislation would also define a “business day” in order to prevent municipalities from claiming “skeleton crew days” that are not considered business days. The bills further define the rules around public information requests for electronic records. “Transparency is essential to preserving democratic governance,” Zaffirini said in a press release about the bills. “The more complicated our government becomes, the greater the potential damage of poor stewardship or outright abuse – and the greater the need for transparency. … This is especially true during emergencies, whether they’re winter storms, pandemics, or even recessions. The public’s right to the truth never changes, but its need for it is never greater than during times of crisis.”

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