Member Login

Forgot Password?
Need Login?

You are here: Home > News & Events > News > TAB Newsroom Legislative…
Welcome, guest: Login to your account

TAB Newsroom Legislative Priority Bills Move Out of House and Senate Committees

After two years of preparation, and in one case, just four weeks of work to find a solution, lawmakers have moved several much needed Open Records and Open Meetings reforms out of committees at the Texas Legislature.  They include several of TAB’s newsroom legislative priorities for the 86th Texas Legislature.

On Tuesday, the Senate Business and Commerce Committee approved by an 8-0 vote a committee substitute for TAB’s chief newsroom legislative priority bill, SB 943 by Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin.

Watson’s transparency measure is meant to offset the damage done by two 2015 Texas Supreme Court decisions that have gutted the public’s ability to see how taxpayer dollars are spent.

Since the Boeing v. Paxton decision, there have been more than 2,700 Attorney General’s office rulings in which some or all the requested information has been kept hidden because of the court ruling.

SB 943 will ensure access to final government contracts and the measurables governmental bodies use to determine that the contract terms are being met.

The committee also approved Watson’s TPIA omnibus measure, SB 944, a bill which among other things, addresses the so-called “custodian loophole” in the Act.

TAB wants to clarify a 2013 law that said public business, even if it is conducted on private electronic devices or in private email accounts, is public record. 

Some public officials, however, are refusing to provide these materials to the governmental body to satisfy the Texas Public Information Act requests for that information.  SB 944 would amend the existing law by requiring a government officer or employee to turn over those records.  

Both bills were recommended for the Senate’s Local and Uncontested Calendar, which could potentially speed up their journey to the local chamber where the House companion bills by Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, have already been heard by the House State Affairs Committee.

On Monday, the Senate State Affairs Committee approved a committee substitute for SB 1640, also by Watson, which addresses a late February Court of Criminal Appeals decision which struck down the "walking quorum" penalty in the Texas Open Meetings Act as unconstitutionally vague.

SB 1640 clarifies the existing law and puts the teeth back in the Act. 

The walking quorum penalty is one of the few criminal provisions in Texas Open Government laws that provide real consequences for bad actors.

The House State Affairs Committee took up the House companion bill in testimony the same day with attorney Stacy Allen of Jackson Walker LLP, TAB’s Texas legal counsel, testifying on TAB’s behalf.

Last week, the House State Affairs Committee approved a committee substitute for HB 1655 by Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, one of TAB’s newsroom legislative priority bills. 

This was the first TAB priority measure to move out of committee. 

HB 1655 would make DOBs contained in governmental records subject to release unless they’re statutorily or constitutionally protected. The legislation addresses a 2015 court decision which extended a common-law right of privacy to dates of birth of all Texans. News outlets, and many other types of businesses, use DOBs to differentiate between two individuals with the same or similar names. 

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

« Back to News Archive
« Back to Latest News