Lege Schedules Transparency Bills for Public Hearings

Since last month when we published an overview of open government bills in the state Legislature, one of the bills we’ve been watching has passed the House, one has passed the Senate, one has been rewritten, and seven have been scheduled for public hearings to be held on Monday and Tuesday.


Last Thursday, the House passed HB 3107, which lets government bodies impose limits on the amount of records they’re required to disclose to a single requestor per month or year (unless the requestors prove they’re employees of news organizations).

On March 29, the Senate passed SB 407, which would allow disclosure of contract bids under the Public Information Act after the contract was awarded.

Out of Committee:

HB 2328 is an important bill that’s now out of committee. It would get rid of the requirement for a governmental body to get an attorney general opinion before withholding information under the Public Information Act, if it makes a good faith determination that an exception applies.

HB 1258, which previously would have prevented anyone from setting up online access to court records currently held by counties, has now been rewritten and toned down. The current version appears to apply only to the state government. It would allow the state to add new court documents to its database, but it would require the state to get permission from the counties to add the backlog of old documents. Also, when the state collects a fee for public access to court documents, it would have to hand the money over to the counties. This bill now has 44 sponsors out of the 150 total representatives, and it is out of committee.

Scheduled for Hearing:

On Monday, the House Government Transparency and Operation Committee will hold public hearings on six open records bills:

  • HB 526, which would amend the Public Information Act to entitle only residents to public information.
  • HB 792, which is similar to SB 407, and would allow disclosure of contract bids under the Public Information Act after the contract was awarded.
  • HB 793, extending the Public Information Act to cover some privately-owned government contractors.
  • HB 2670, supporting public access to government information stored on privately-owned accounts and devices.
  • HB 2710, providing that public records containing dates of birth can still be disclosed.
  • HB 3581, a helpful-sounding law requiring agencies to publish a data dictionary and instructions for using any databases that they disclose in response to a public records request, and also requiring them to provide more explanation of why it’s necessary to charge for programming work to fulfill a records request.

Also, on Tuesday, the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee will hold a public hearing on HB 2044, which includes some open records provisions among many other provisions relating to police misconduct.

If you have an opinion about a bill that’s up for public hearing, testifying at the committee meeting is the best way to speak up! You just need to register to testify (at the Capitol) and then say why you support or oppose the bill.

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(“Texas Justice” Photo Illustration by: Lance Page / t r u t h o u t; Adapted From: Alcately / Flickr) (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)