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Public comment will be in-person at Texas Legislature, despite COVID



TX – Texans wishing to weigh in on bills being considered by the Legislature will have to appear in person, per new rules passed by both chambers this week.

Advocacy groups had pushed for lawmakers to allow testimony to be taken virtually to accommodate those with concerns about exposure to the coronavirus involved with traveling to Austin and being in a room full of people, especially those with heightened COVID-19 risk.

The rules approved Thursday in the House will allow videoconference testimony only for those invited by a committee chair. In the Senate, it will be allowed only during regional redistricting hearings.

“If you want somebody invited, go to the chair of the committee,” said state Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, who co-authored the rules. “It doesn’t strike you at all.”

House committee chairs are required to “make a reasonable effort to invite witnesses representing different viewpoints” but have no obligation to accept requests from committee members for certain witnesses to be called.

New this year, as a way to increase opportunities for public feedback for those with health concerns, House committees will be required to accept electronically submitted written comments.