Part II: How virtual meetings could forever change Texas governments

Regular readers of our Texas Municipal Law Blog will undoubtedly recall that we recently wrote about how some social distancing changes that have come to public hearings and meetings could stick around and reshape politics and decision-making at state and local levels.

A survey of four states (Texas, California, Florida and Ohio) by lobbying firm Consensus Strategies shows that the number of people who say they would participate in government hearings and meetings more than doubles (to 53 percent) when the gatherings are done by video conferencing.

Officials would have to recalculate positions on developments, for instance, to include more than considerations of abutters and special interest groups. They would hear from a much larger group of citizens and have to assess the risks and rewards to the community at large.

A Consensus Strategies spokesperson said one of the shifts in decision-making dynamics would likely be away from those who are traditionally involved in hearings (often older residents, who tend to be more conservative) to an online community that would likely be younger and more liberal.

Such a shift could dramatically alter outcomes in issues involving tax revenue generation, economic development and job creation, the spokesperson said, potentially making it easier to get approval for items such as recreational marijuana sales and casino gaming.

The survey also indicated that in Texas, Florida and California, “minority participation” in public hearings conducted virtually “rises significantly.”

“Conventional wisdom and strategic playbooks will need to be rewritten to accommodate a new reality,” said a spokesperson.