Push to Strengthen TX Open Records Law

It’s your right to know. So say a Texas State Senator and a Texas State Representative–who have filed bills they believe will close some new loopholes that have opened up in the State’s open records law over the last year.

“It’s the taxpayers money, they should have the right to know how it’s being spent” State Rep Giovanni Capriglione said during a news conference at the State Capitol in Austin Tuesday Morning.

The bills are the result of a pair of recent court rulings–one of which gives private businesses greater leeway in hiding information from public view–even if they are dealing with the State.

“The AG’s (Attorney General’s) Office–Ken Paxton–fought that in the lower courts, won in the lower courts. But the State Supreme Court said yes… you can stop disclosure just simply because it will hurt your business” Capriglione said.

It’s a ruling that also frustrated State Senator Kirk Watson, who brought some examples of the ruling being used to hide what he believes is information the public has the right to know–and have access to.

“How much the City of McAllen paid Enrique Iglesias to sing at a holiday parade… how many driver permits the City of Houston issued to Uber” Watson said in illustrating his point.

A second ruling gives non-profits greater leeway in what they must disclose under the State’s open records law–even if they are talking taxpayer money. Simply put, Watson believes the bills he and Capriglione have filed for the Legislature to consider will properly rest the rules.

“We’re codifying clear, unambiguous protections in the hope that what we will do is we will prevent similar decisions that will undermine the purpose of the Public Information Act” Watson said.

The bills were applauded by a number of watchdogs–including attorney and advocate Laura Prather–who has served as the Chair of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas.

“Texans need to know who the government is making deals with… and, how their money is being spent” Prather said.

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