Capriglione, Broadcast Journalists Explore Texas Open Records Problem Areasposted on 2.01.2021
- Online Flash Briefing Set for Feb. 9
It did not take the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to expose problems with the state’s venerable open records law, the Texas Public Information Act, but requests by Texas broadcast newsrooms in the past year have garnered the attention of state lawmakers seeking a fix to TPIA request issues.
Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, and veteran Texas broadcast journalists Jaie Avila, WOAI-TV, and Joe Ellis, KVUE-TV, will explore TPIA issues newsrooms continue to encounter and what legislative remedies are being proposed to combat them.
TAB has arranged a free online Feb. 9 flash briefing at 9am with the trio to discuss ongoing TPIA request issues and the Open Government initiatives Capriglione has already and will be filing to address them.
Capriglione last week filed HB 1416, a measure to curtail the abuse of the “skeleton crew” provision permitted by the Texas Attorney General’s office which excludes office closure dates from the 10-business day TPIA request response deadline.
Governmental entities, like many businesses, adapted to working in a remote environment during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Some have refused to fulfill TPIA requests entirely and/or indefinitely while working remotely, even though today most records are available electronically and can be easily accessed remotely.
Skeleton crew guidelines were meant for occasional snow days, floods, hurricanes or semi-holidays, not ongoing remote work for months on end, such as during the COVID-19 outbreak.
This bill would address the issue by clarifying what is a "business day" for purposes of the TPIA request response timeline.
The trio will also discuss two other TPIA problem areas which will be subject to legislative remedy – requiring Texas governmental entities to post government contracts online and releasing data in a form that is searchable and sortable to make government more efficient, effective, and accountable.
Investigative journalists use searchable and sortable data formats such as Excel spreadsheets to conduct relational database reporting to expose issues or chart progress.
Sadly, some governmental entities refuse to release data this way and instead produce a PDF to “satisfy” the TPIA request, mitigating the ability to meaningfully review government data.
Questions? Contact TAB’s Michael Schneider or call (512) 322-9944.
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