A Publication of The League of Women Voters of Greater Birmingham

Published October 2005

Alabama Has a New Open Meetings Act

Alabama’s new Open Meetings Act went into effect October 1.  The new law replaces the 90-year-old Sunshine Law, which allowed public officials to meet privately to discuss the “good name and character” of an individual.

The new Open Meetings Act requires that

  • All committee and subcommittee meetings of government bodies must be open.
  • Advance notice of all meetings must be given.
  • Secret ballots are prohibited.
  • Job performance of public officials (including fire chiefs, school superintendents and public employees earning more than $50,000 a year) cannot be discussed behind closed doors.
  • Electronic media and communications cannot be used to circumvent the goal of an open meeting.
  • News media representatives may tape meetings.
  • Officials acting within the parameters of the law will be immune from liability for statements made during meetings.
Criminal punishment for violating the law was abolished.  Instead, citizens can sue public officials over violations and seek monetary damages.  While closing the “good name and character” loophole, the new law still provides nine exemptions for officials to call “executive sessions,” which do not have to be public.
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