New Laws for Juror Pay, Open Meetings

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A pair of hour-long videos on open meetings and open records is now required viewing for state decision makers.

"As public officials elected to office, we owe it to all Texans to protect the openness and freedom this state and this country were founded upon," said Attorney General Paul Abbott.

It's a move Bryan's City Secretary Mary Lynn Stratta likes. She is also the former president of the Texas Municipal Clerks Association.

"Taxpayers pay for our operations, and they have a right to know what we're doing and when we're doing it and how we're doing it," Stratta said. "So I think it's a good thing. I don't think it ever hurts to be reminded about the law."

And if the concept of yearly open meetings training sounds familiar, that's because it was part of the court order issued to College Station's City Council after they violated the law in firing City Manager Tom Brymer.

The judge in that case was J.D. Langley, who, along with Judge Rick Davis, has been vocal about jury duty. With the county often struggling to get a large pool of prospective jurors, the new pay raise enacted by the state may help the problem. For their service, jurors will now get $40 a day each day after the first. The $6-a-day pay previously has been cited as a problem in attracting jurors.

"Without jurors who are willing to serve, when they're called upon to do so, the system simply cannot work," Langley said.

And that higher pay scale for jurors will be paid for with an extra $4 fee tacked on to anyone found guilty of a crime.

One of the other new laws going into effect involves property values. From now on, the county is required to give new property owners the appraisal value of the land for the last five years, as well as the tax increases for that time period.