Texas Senate panel considers bill banning one-party consent for recording

AUSTIN – Texas would join a small number of states banning one-party consent for electronic recordings of conversations under a bill the Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee considered Tuesday.

Senate Bill 1223 by Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, would require all parties that are in a conversation to give their consent to a recording. Only 12 states have such a law. Most states and the federal government do not.

There are numerous reasons why Texans might need to record their own conversation without seeking the other party’s consent, and Texas would become an “outlier state” if the measure passes, said attorney Stacy Allen, testifying for the Texas Association of Broadcasters against the bill.

News reporters tape interviews for accuracy, Allen said, adding that students sometimes tape lectures and consumers might want to record a conversation about a complaint they are making by phone. Allen pointed out that one-party consent for recording has been the law in Texas since 1968.

The Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas and the Texas Press Association also oppose the legislation because of constraints it would place on journalists and all Texans. In some situations – such as a large telephone conference or a college lecture – obtaining consent from all parties is not feasible.

The Houston Police Department is opposing the bill but is working with Bettencourt on changing it.

Sen. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio, said he was concerned that someone might want to record evidence of domestic violence in their home but would be hindered by the proposed legislation.