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Legislative Fruit – Texas AG Adds New Open Government Rulings Online Database

A key provision of HB 3033 by Rep. Brooks Landgraf, R-Odessa, an Open Government legislative measure championed by TAB in the 88th Texas Legislature, is now operational on the Texas Attorney General’s website – a "searchable database" of letter ruling requests and corresponding decisions.

HB 3033 required the database be available online by Jan. 1 of this year. Newsrooms and the general public can access the database here

It includes the name of the entity making the request, the status of the request, the exception(s) being asserted, and estimated timeline of completion. The database is not retroactive, so the first requests received for review start on Oct. 25, 2023.

Landgraf originally filed the bill to make it easier for the public to review informal “letter ruling” Open Records decisions to see if any precedents had been set, as well as to define a specific timeframe (15 days) by which a governmental body must release information if the AG’s office ruled for release.

It became an amendment vehicle for other governmental transparency measures in the regular as it was one of the Open Government-related bills to make it to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.

The original bill was amended to include portions of four other Open Records-related bills all of which were active Sept. 1, 2023. The most notable to newsrooms was the inclusion of the language from HB 2135 by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, a TAB Newsroom Legislative Priority bill. The new language defines “business days” under the Texas Public Information Act. This clarification provides clear guidance to governments across Texas, so they have uniformity in complying with the law and are not left to decide on their own which days they are open and closed for TPIA requests. 

Another section of the bill includes language from HB 3167 by Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, which addresses the legitimate issue of TPIA “vexatious requestors” using language crafted by Open Government advocates. It helps governments deal with repeat requestors who use substantial amounts of government staff time fulfilling malicious requests while also ensuring that the rights of legitimate TPIA requestors are safeguarded.

Questions? Contact TAB’s Michael Schneider or call (512) 322-9944. 

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