Two major open government bills win final legislative passage, now head to governor

Two important open government measures won final approval Thursday in the Texas Senate, which concurred with House amendments on Senate Bill 943, the Public Information Act contracting transparency bill, and Senate Bill 1640, the update to the Open Meeting Act.

Both pieces of legislation next head to Gov. Greg Abbott. These proposals were among the leading initiatives of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas.

Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, and Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, worked together on the bipartisan contracting bill. It plugs holes in the Public Information Act created when the Texas Supreme Court issued rulings in 2015 blocking much of the public’s access to government contracts with private companies and non-profits. The bill specifies key information in contracts that must be revealed to the public.

Watson and Rep. Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, worked together to pass the Texas Open Meetings Act bill in response to this year’s Court of Criminal Appeals ruling declaring the “walking quorum” provision in the law unconstitutional. The legislation makes the law’s language more specific in addressing the ban on walking quorums.