Monday, September 03, 2018

#txlege committees should post witness materials, testimony online

Some Texas legislative committees, like House County Affairs, helpfully post on the committee website the handouts and written testimony given to members at committee hearings.

Others, like the House Criminal Jurisprudence and Corrections Committees, do not.

All of them should, whether it's individual committee chairs choosing to post that material or implemented across the board when each chamber's rules are adopted in January.

Posting handouts and written testimony online, particularly the data-driven presentations frequently offered by agency staff, would make it easier for the public watching the hearings outside of Austin to follow along. It would also improve press coverage of legislative debates.

In general, reporters or members of the public can always, ultimately get access to these presentations, either by appealing to a sympathetic member, calling individuals who testified to ask for their materials, or filing open records requests in the case of agency testimony. But many more people would/could access the information, and with a lot less hassle, if it were posted online automatically.

This move would help everyone, from the wonkiest number cruncher looking for data discussed at the hearing to the average citizen in Abilene or Amarillo watching the hearings from afar and trying to understand what's going on. It would even benefit legislative and agency staff to put all that stuff where they can access it electronically.

Grits would like to see the practice become the rule, not the exception.

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Still waiting on TDCJ statistical report
Speaking of not posting data online, the FY 2017 TDCJ Statistical report, discussed here, STILL has not been posted online. The last annual dataset released by the agency was for year ending Aug. 31, 2016, so that information is now more than two years old. WTF?

This is all data that TDCJ tracks in minute detail and includes in various, internal reports which are updated monthly. There is no good reason to believe annual reports couldn't be produced by the end of the CALENDAR year in which the fiscal year ends. County jails must update their population figures monthly; there's no way to justify TDCJ getting to sit on their data for so long.

2 comments:

Steven Seys said...

The cover-up culture at TDCJ is so deeply entrenched that data could be destroyed contrary to state law if some minor clerk thinks it may damage the agency's image. That said, watch for the data to be embarrassing but not truly damaging.

Anonymous said...

All of OCA’s testimony is posted at http://www.txcourts.gov/publications-training/legislative-information/.