Texas bill would prohibit texting, tweeting by elected officials during meetings

The Fort Worth Star-TelegramApril 4, 2011 

AUSTIN — A state lawmaker wants elected officials paying attention to the public during government meetings -- not texting, tweeting, Facebooking or e-mailing.

State Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, has a bill that would make it illegal for any school board member, city council member, county commissioner -- any elected official -- to transmit an electronic message during such a meeting.

"I think it's just rude if people come all the way to talk to lawmakers and they are on the phone," said Hunter, who heads the powerful House Calendars Committee. "If you are elected, why are you doing personal business?"

Hunter's bill, which would include committee meetings but not meetings of the whole House or Senate, would make electronic messages sent by elected officials during government meetings subject to the Texas Open Meetings Act.

The proposal is drawing mixed reactions from area leaders.

"I think you have to leave this up to the judgment of elected officials," Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief said. "They know what's appropriate and what isn't, what constitutes an emergency and what doesn't.

"I don't know what my colleagues are doing during the meeting while they are on their BlackBerrys or iPads," he said. "Elected officials need to police themselves."

Hunter said that if elected officials need to send such a message, they can move away from the meeting and the message would not be a violation.

"Just walk out of the room," he said.

To read the complete article, visit www.star-telegram.com.

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