Texas House committee approves two major open government bills

The Texas House State Affairs Committee unanimously approved two bills Wednesday addressing governments that quit responding to Texas Public Information Acts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The panel approved House Bill 1416 by Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, specifying which days are to be counted as business days for purposes of the Public Information Act. Currently, the law doesn’t define TPIA business days. Many governments, citing long-ago attorney general guidance, decided on their own how to calculate business days when the pandemic set in. The legislation next moves to the full House.

Committee members also voted in favor of House Bill 3627 by Chairman Chris Paddie, R-Marshall, which clarifies 2019 legislation allowing governments to file “catastrophe notices” with the attorney general’s office when a disaster prevents them from responding to Public Information Act requests. The notice allows a seven-day halt to TPIA responses. In some situations, a government can file for another seven-day extension but that is the limit. The bill now heads to the full House.