By TEXPERS Staff
UPDATE 8/14/20 -- Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Aug. 8 issued a proclamation extending the state's Disaster Declaration in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The declaration includes all Texas counties and includes a provision that allows governmental bodies such as state and local pension boards to continue hosting remote meetings.
"Renewing this Disaster Declaration will provide communities with the resources they need to respond to COVID-19," Abbott stated in a news release. "I urge Texans to remain vigilant in our fight against this virus. Everyone must do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19 by wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and washing your hands frequently and thoroughly. We will overcome this challenge by working together."
The state's disaster declaration includes Texas Open Meetings Act suspensions allowing governmental bodies to host public meetings remotely to reduce in-person meetings of large groups of people.
Abbott initially issued the disaster declaration on March 13. On March 16, the governor granted the office of the attorney general's request for temporary suspension of certain open meeting statutes. The suspension allows for telephonic or videoconference meetings of governmental bodies as long as they remain accessible to the public.
> LEARN MORE: Open Meeting Act suspensions
State and local public pension systems should be aware that this temporary suspension leaves significant open-meeting protections in place. According to the governor's March 16 news release:
- Members of the public will be entitled to participate and address the governmental body during any telephonic or video conference meeting.
- To hold a telephonic or video conference meeting, a governmental body must post a written notice that gives the public a way to participate remotely, such as a toll-free dial-in number, and that includes an electronic copy of any agenda packet that officials will consider at the meeting.
- A governmental body must provide the public with access to a recording of any telephonic or video conference meeting.
"As we continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, our top priority remains the health and safety of all Texans," Abbott stated in a news release announcing a previous extension of the Disaster Declaration. "By extending the disaster declaration, we are ensuring that Texas has the resources and capabilities in place to safely and strategically open the state while containing the spread of this virus. As we move forward in our response, I urge all Texans to continue following the health and safety guidelines laid out by the CDC and Texas' team of medical experts."
The History of Texas' COVID-19 Emergency Declaration
On March 13, the governor announced actions the state is taking to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus, which causes the COVD-19 disease, including declaring a State of Disaster in all Texas counties.