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A federal appeals court has upheld Texas' open meetings law as constitutional, rejecting a lawsuit that argued it stifled free speech for government officials.

The 1967 Texas Open Meetings Act prohibits a quorum of members of a governmental body from deliberating in secret. Violations are punishable by up to six months in jail and a $500 fine.

Officials from a group of 15 Texas cities, including Alpine, Arlington and Houston suburb Sugar Land, challenged the law in 2009. A U.S. district judge ruled against them, prompting an appeal the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

A three-judge panel ruled Tuesday that the law promotes disclosure of speech and does not restrict it.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott called the decision a victory for open government.


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