iluna@valleytowncrier.com

RIO GRANDE VALLEY/EDINBURG - The Objective Watchers of the Legal System or better known as O.W.L.S., were praised Monday, January 27 by state officials presenting House Bill 2840.

The bill will allow Texans to speak on agenda items during public meetings of most governmental bodies like local, city and state, before an action is taken.

H.B. 2840 was presented to O.W.L.S. front-woman, Fern McClaugherty who is highly-active in the advocacy group fighting for public rights.

“This is a great day for the state of Texas,” McClaugherty said. “We hope to do a little more, make it a little more open for the public so that we’re able to go to the meetings.”

All Rio Grande Valley state lawmakers voted for House Bill 2840 who include:

Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen, Rep. Ryan Guillén, D-Rio Grande City, Rep. Richard Raymond, D-Laredo, and Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola passed the bill.

Canales served as the primary author and Guerra, Guillén and Raymond as the co-authors. Hughes sponsored the legislation while Hinojosa co-sponsored.

With the passing of H.B. 2840, Canales shares it is the perfect opportunity to listen to the public and has even had his mind changed because of the open policy.

“I think it’s an important feature in government being able to listen to the people,” Rep. Canales said. “Some people think our elected officials have an opinion on everything or know everything and sometimes the public will change it.”

Having an open-government relationship is important to Sen. Hinojosa because public officials need to be held accountable.

“One of the foundations of our nation is the freedom of speech, open government and transparency,” Sen. Hinojosa said. “I think the O.W.L.S. are key to keeping our local government officials on [our] toes and it’s important because citizens are the rock of our government, citizens speak out and call us out quite frankly when we (public officials) aren’t transparent with the public - so we are being held accountable… it comes with the territory and that’s the way it should be.”

The O.W.L.S. formed in the 1970s by bringing attention to public concerns on elected and appointed government officials’ unfairness and promotes transparency between the government and people.

“This is why I join my colleagues in supporting House Bill 2840 which will make engaging with their government officials much easier,” said Rep. “Bobby” Guerra. “Any citizen who would like to speak up should not be prohibited from speaking up… this legislation provides the opportunity and assurance that their voices will be heard.”