Member Login

Forgot Password?
Need Login?

You are here: Home > News & Events > News > TAB-Advocated Open…
Welcome, guest: Login to your account

TAB-Advocated Open Government Reforms Become Law this Friday

Open Government reforms that will improve the public’s access to crucial government information will go into effect this Friday, Sept. 1.

HB 30 by Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, and HB 3033 by Rep. Brooks Landgraf, R-Odessa, were part of a package of TAB-advocated Open Government bills sought in the 88th Texas Legislature, but the only two measures which made it to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk for his approval.

TAB, like many legislative advocates in the recent regular session, was frustrated by an intentional legislative logjam meant to impede bills’ forward progress.

“Dead Suspects Loophole” Closed

It took four legislative sessions, but HB 30 by Moody, will go into effect Friday.

The new law will meaningfully address the so-called “dead suspects loophole” in the Texas Public Information Act (TPIA), a provision that has stymied Texas families and newsrooms for years. 

Currently, law enforcement can shield a wide variety of information in pending investigations and in closed cases that do not result in a conviction. 

Frustratingly, it has meant that investigatory information related to incidents in which the suspect or suspects died is often not released, even for in custody deaths, hence the “dead suspects loophole” moniker.  

The loophole was used to prevent release of information related to the Uvalde school shooting suspect because the shooter was killed by authorities and the case will never result in his conviction.

HB 30 is not retroactive, so it cannot be applied in the Uvalde case.

In fact, release of that information is still being contested in the courts by local officials and the State of Texas. 

The final version of HB 30 was heavily edited by the Texas House and Senate as it moved through the legislature, but what becomes law this Friday will allow Texas citizens to access more information that will help hold accountable the law enforcement that taxpayers fund.

Abbott let the bill become law without his signature, a stark contrast to the near unanimous support the measure saw in House and Senate votes.

“Business Days” Defined in the Texas Public Information Act

This long-sought TAB reform means local governments across Texas are not left to decide on their own which days they are open or closed for the purpose of answering TPIA requests. 

Lack of a clear definition in the TPIA has led to years of governmental abuse that has thwarted requestors of public records.

This open records thorn was especially felt during COVID government agency shutdowns in which TPIA requests languished for months at a time.

HB 2135 by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, a TAB newsroom legislative priority bill, clearly defines “business days” under the TPIA.

It was included as a House floor amendment to Rep. Landgraf’s HB 3033.  

Other HB 3033 Provisions

In addition to Canales’ language, Landgraf’s bill included another notable Open Government reform.

HB 3033 requires the Texas Attorney General to render a decision on a TPIA question no later than 30 days after receiving the request for review.

That window is currently 45 days.  

Under the new law, governmental bodies will be required to produce information within 15 days if the AG's office rules for release, or, notify the requestor within 15 days that the information may be withheld as determined by the AG's office. 

The law also directs the AG's office to create a searchable online database of requests for AG decisions on TPIA issues. 

The database must include the name entity making the request, the exception being asserted, and the status of the request, and estimated timeline of completion. 

The latter will be especially helpful to Texas newsrooms.

Local governments also notched a win in the Landgraf bill as it includes the language of Moody’s HB 3167, a bill addressing the legitimate issue of TPIA “vexatious requestors” who use the law to harass local governments.

TAB and other Open Government advocates were able to craft bill language that helps governments deal with repeat requestors who use large amounts of government staff time while also ensuring that the rights of legitimate TPIA requestors are safeguarded.

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

« Back to News Archive
« Back to Latest News