Effective January 1, 2006, elected and appointed public officials are required by a state law to receive training in Texas open government laws. The Office of the Attorney General offers free video training courses, which were developed in compliance with a mandate from the 79th Texas Legislature that the Attorney General establish the formal training necessary to ensure that all elected and appointed government officials have a good command of both open records and open meetings laws.
This Web site contains links and information designed to assist public officials and public information coordinators in complying with the open government training requirement and Texas open government laws.
A: The Texas Open Meetings Act and the Public Information Act (Govt. Code Chapters 551 and 552) apply to nearly every governmental body in Texas, yet there has not been a consistent way for public officials to receive training on how to comply with these laws. This is significant because a failure to comply with either the Open Meetings Act or Public Information Act may result in civil and criminal penalties for public officials, and can also lead to a general breakdown of confidence in our governing bodies.
The Office of the Attorney General has found that in most cases where a governmental body violates the open government laws, it is the result of public officials simply not knowing what the law requires. Inconsistent and inaccurate legal advice regarding these laws has sometimes added to the confusion.
Attorney General Greg Abbott called on the 79th Texas Legislature to enact legislation to require public officials to obtain open government training in an effort to promote openness and increase compliance with our "Sunshine laws." The Legislature responded by passing Senate Bill 286, which requires public officials to receive training in the requirements of the Open Meetings Act and Public Information Act beginning January 1, 2006.
A: The Open Meetings Act (Government Code section 551.005) and the Public Information Act (Government Code section 552.012) impose mandatory open government educational requirements on elected and appointed officials who are subject to the those laws.
A: The law requires at least two hours of open government training, consisting of a one-hour educational course on the Open Meetings Act and one-hour educational course on the Texas Public Information Act.
A: Officials who are in office before January 1, 2006 have one year until January 1, 2007 to complete the required training. Officials who are elected or appointed after January 1, 2006 have 90 days within which to complete the required training.
A: Each elected or appointed official who is a member of a governmental body subject to the Open Meetings Act or the Public Information Act must attend training. Additionally, employees who serve as a governmental body's designated public information coordinator are required to complete the Public Information Act training course.
A: Officials and others subject to the training requirements must complete a course of training at least once. There is no requirement for continuing education or "refresher" courses.
A: Judicial officials and judicial employees do not need to attend Public Information Act training, but may be responsible for completing Open Meetings Act training.
Judicial officials and employees do not need to obtain training regarding the Public Information Act because public access to information maintained by the court system is governed by Rule 12 of the Judicial Administration Rules of the Texas Supreme Court and by other applicable laws and rules. (see Govt. Code 552.0035). However, if a judge or judicial employee serves as a member of a governmental body subject to the Open Meetings Act, we advise that they should comply with the Open Meetings Act training requirements. If you are unsure if the open government training requirement applies to you, please consult with the Office of the Attorney General or the Office of Court Administration.
A: The law outlines the basic topics to be covered by the training.
Open Meetings curriculum requirements:
Public Information Act curriculum requirements:
A: Generally yes. The Open Meetings Act training requirement applies to all elected or appointed officials who routinely participate in meetings subject to that law as part of their regular duties; this includes most officials.
However, the law recognizes that some public officials do not conduct business in meetings subject to the Open Meetings Act. These might include, for example, law enforcement officials, auditors, or county clerks. These types of officials will not be required to complete training in the Open Meetings Act.
If you are unsure if the Open Meetings Act training requirements apply to you, you should consult your county or district attorney, or call the Attorney General's Open Government Hotline at 1-877-OPEN-TEX (1-877-673-6839).
A: Yes, unless: (1) The official's governmental body employs a designated public information coordinator who is responsible for responding to Public Information Act requests on behalf of the governmental body; and (2) The designated public information coordinator completes an approved Public Information Act training course. There are no other exceptions.
All officials are strongly encouraged to complete the required Public Information Act training and should be advised that designation of a public information coordinator to complete training on their behalf does not relieve the public official of their duty to comply with the law.
A: Only elected and appointed officials who serve with governmental bodies are required to obtain the training. However, if you are an official who serves with another type of entity that is required by law to comply with the Open Meetings Act or the Public Information Act, then you are strongly encouraged to complete the training, but not clearly required to do so by law. You may wish to consult with your organization's legal counsel for advice on the laws that apply to your organization.
A: The Office of the Attorney General provides free training for all public officials through both online and video courses. Training may also be obtained from any entity that offers a training course that has been reviewed and approved by the Office of the Attorney General. This would encompass courses by various interest groups, professional organizations, and continuing education providers.
A: The attorney general's free training videos are available for viewing on this website (see links below).
A: You can obtain your course completion certificate(s) online , and entering the identification code that was provided at the end of your training video. If you are unable to complete your certificate online, please call the Attorney General's Public Information and Assistance line at 1(800) 252-8011 to have a completion certificate mailed to you. Please be prepared to give the call agent the proper identification code.
This certificate is to be maintained by the member's governmental body and made available for public inspection upon request.
A: No. There are no "grand-father" provisions for public officials who may have attended open government training in the past. Only training approved by the attorney general under the provisions of the law will comply with the requirements of Government Code 551.005 and 552.012.
A: The entity providing the training is required to give the participant a certificate of course completion. The public official or public information coordinator is then required to keep the certificate on file with their governmental body and make it available for public inspection upon request.
A: The law imposes no specific penalty on officials who fail to attend open government training. The purpose of the law is not to punish public officials, but to foster open government by making open government education a recognized obligation of public service.
Despite this lack of a penalty provision, officials should be cautioned that a deliberate failure to comply with the training requirements could result in an increased risk of criminal prosecution should they ever be accused of violating the Open Meetings Act or the Public Information Act.
A: Yes. To avoid imposing duplicate training requirements on public officials, the attorney general is required to harmonize the Open Meetings and Public Information Act training required by the Open Meetings Act and the Public Information Act with any other statutory training requirements that may be imposed on public officials, such as those required of county commissioners under Local Govt. Code Section 81.0025.
A: No. The attorney general is not authorized to certify individuals, companies, or organizations to provide open government training. Rather, the law allows the attorney general the option to review and approve course materials used by others for the purpose of determining whether they are accurate and otherwise in compliance with the Open Meetings Act and the Public Information Act. In this way, the law places an emphasis on the quality of information provided to public officials, rather than the credentials of the trainer.
A: Applicants seeking approval of an open government training course must complete an online application and submit copies of their training course materials to the Office of the Attorney General in order to receive consideration. The online application is available here.
Course approval is not required for entities that will rely on completion of the attorney general’s video training course to satisfy the training requirements of the Open Meetings Act and the Public Information Act.
A: Yes. Governmental entities may conduct their own internal training on the Open Meetings Act and the Public Information Act by either making the attorney general's free video training course available for their officials, or by obtaining attorney general approval of their own course materials to ensure that they are accurate, up-to-date, and meet the requirements of the Open Meetings Act and the Public Information Act.
A: Yes. Officials may obtain the required training from any person or entity that offers a training course utilizing course materials that have been properly reviewed and approved by the Office of the Attorney General.
A: No. The attorney general's open government training videos are freely available for use. You are permitted to use this video as part of any training course on Open Government and you are free to make as many copies of the video as you may need.