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Patrick releases Senate interim charges

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has unveiled his Senate interim charges for the upper chamber’s committees to address in the coming year.   House Speaker Joe Straus is expected to release interim charges in the next three weeks.

Although the Legislature meets every two years, lawmakers keep themselves busy in between with committee meetings, hearings and research while waiting for the 140 days of the regular session.

TAB staff monitors these meetings for issues that could impact broadcasters and arranges testimony as needed.

A number of the Senate’s interim charges, including review of such issues as protecting religious liberty, denial of gun applications, so-called “sanctuary cities”, veteran’s health benefits, to reviewing sales tax holidays, have garnered the headlines but there are three which could have impact on topics near and dear to broadcast newsrooms.

The Senate’s Criminal Justice Committee, chaired by Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, will review the dissemination of bulk criminal records dissemination.

Two bills filed in the 84th Texas Legislature would have severely curtailed newsrooms ability to access criminal records in bulk which would have hindered newsrooms’ ability to cross reference criminal records with known public employees for example.

TAB was successful in addressing both bills, neither of which passed.

The committee will study how bulk criminal records are disseminated and review the list of entities with access to and their current use of criminal records.

It is also tasked with making “recommendations to streamline the dissemination of records through bulk requests to ensure accuracy and limit inappropriate use of records.”

The Senate State Affairs Committee, chaired by Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, will review current ethics laws governing public officials and employees and recommend changes necessary to inspire the public’s confidence in a transparent and ethically principled government.

Part of the review will look at public officials’ reporting requirements to the Texas Ethics Commission.

The Senate Inter-Governmental Relations Committee, chaired by Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, will examine ways to improve government accountability in elections regarding the issuance of public debt.

Patrick wants the committee to review the information that is currently provided to individuals in the voting booth and provide statutory recommendations, if necessary, to improve transparency.

He has also called for a look at the processes used by home rule municipalities to adopt ordinances, rules, and regulations, including those initiated by petition and voter referendum.

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

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