Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Texas closes more public records every lege session - can the trend be reveresed?

A friend asked for an update on Texas open records law changes from the 2007 Legislature, and while I only tracked criminal justice issues, since I took the time to compile this information I thought I'd share it with y'all.

For starters, nothing good passed. To my knowledge, only bills closing additional records were approved.

Of the bills I covered on Grits, here's the best good OR bill that even got a hearing (but wasn't voted out of committee). Otherwise, these bad bills passed:

Here's a terrible bill for crime beat reporters that lets prosecutors close information about search warrant affidavits up to 60 days.

This was a bad loss exempting police from certain civil subpoenas

Here's a really bad homeland security bill closing emergency plans and security audits that I think makes the public less safe.

They closed more home addresses of state officials, this time judges.

They closed most misconduct records for DPS officers.

Texas state agencies received more than 2 million open records requests in 2007, with local governments receiving untold millions more. But all those requesters are able to receive less and less information after every biennial legislative session.

At this point in Texas history, not one, single legislator in either chamber, in either party, could be honestly described as a consistent, vocal advocate for open records. We need new legislative champions for openness in both parties, people who speak up for transparency. By comparison, most of the bad bills described above passed virtually unopposed.

Perhaps with some open legislative seats in play next year, new voices will speak out on these topics. The voters who filed those 2 million-plus open records requests last year would sure appreciate it.

1 comment:

Eileen Smith said...

I owe you... thanks Scott.