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Government Transparency During Emergencies Remains a Hot Topic

- Subject of Oct. 7 Webinar; TAB Legislative Effort

Ensuring government transparency during emergencies has become a serious question mark as journalists and everyday Texans alike have learned during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The challenge has been unintentionally made worse by a law passed in 2019, but other forces are at play and will be discussed at the TAB-sponsored Zoom call on October 7 at 1:30 PM Central.

State Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, is hosting the hour-long policy discussion with Julie Fine of KXAS-TV Dallas-Fort Worth, WOAI-TV San Antonio’s Jaie Avila, and Justin Gordon, head of the Open Records Division at the Texas Attorney General’s office.

Journalists and Texans from across the state will share their concerns based on experiences of the past seven months, some of which stem from a misunderstanding – or deliberate abuse – of a law passed in 2019 in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

The storm’s historic flooding made it physically impossible for at least one group of county officials to conduct business in compliance with the state’s Open Government laws. A bill intended to provide local governments a short-term waiver of certain requirements has turned into almost a rolling renewal of the disaster notices required to trigger the waiver.

Add to that a lack of training in the state’s Open Government laws for front-line workers fielding public information requests, and in some quarters hostility toward the laws, and Texans for much of this year have been left in the dark about how tax dollars are being spent, how loved ones are faring in state health facilities, and how policy decisions are being made.

Register now and join the discussion to help TAB lay the groundwork for addressing these concerns in the upcoming session of the Texas Legislature!

Questions? Contact TAB’s Oscar Rodriguez or call (512) 322-9944.

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