Open government bills moving forward at Texas Capitol

UPDATED April 11, 2019

Several proposals to strengthen Texas’ open government laws are moving ahead in the Texas Legislature.

The Texas Public Information Act contracting transparency bill by Sen. Kirk Watson won final passage in the state Senate on Wednesday, April 10. It closes loopholes created by Texas Supreme Court rulings and is another step toward Texas taxpayers regaining their right to know how their money is spent.

Earlier this week, the Senate approved Watson’s bill updating the Texas Open Meetings Act in response to a recent court ruling.

These measures now move on to the Texas House.

Posted April 6:

Contracting transparency companion bills, Senate Bill 943 and House Bill 2189 by Sen. Kirk Watson and Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, respectively, have been approved in committees and are next heading to the full Senate and House chambers. The legislation would ensure that core information in public contracts with private businesses is once again accessible. A Texas Supreme Court ruling in 2015 made some of that basic information off limits to public view.

Legislation by Watson and Rep. Dade Phelan to update the Texas Open Meetings Act in response to a recent court ruling about “walking quorums” was also approved in committees and is expected on the Senate floor this week. Texas Public Information Act bills by Rep. Todd Hunter governing public business conducted on private electronic devices and access to dates of birth in public records have been approved in a House committee.

On Monday, April 7, two other Public Information Act bills are getting a hearing in the House State Affairs Committee: a TPIA attorneys’ fees bill, HB 3457, by Rep. John Smithee and a searchable/sortable records bill, HB 4132, by Rep. Eddie Rodriguez.

House Bill 147 by Rep. Joe Moody, which would close a loophole in the Public Information Act and make records accessible when a suspect has died in police custody, is awaiting a vote in the House State Affairs Committee.