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TAB legislative agenda gains steam

With key procedural deadlines in the Texas legislative process now cleared, legislation TAB is advancing to protect Radio and Television stations and the state’s Open Government laws is gaining steam.

On Monday, a House committee heard HB 1043 which would add a much-needed broadcast exception to a longstanding Texas record bootlegging law at TAB’s request.  Such an exception already is on the books in 47 other states and would clarify an existing ambiguity that in extreme situations could be exploited to harass stations playing sound recordings made before 1972.

Ben Downs of Bryan Broadcasting and David Oxenford of the Wilkinson Barker Knauer, LLP law firm testified on TAB’s behalf.

The House bill author is Rep. Tryon Lewis, R-Odessa, chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence.   Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, has authored the Senate companion bill.  The House committee left the bill pending and will take it up again in the coming weeks.

Also teed up for a hearing next week is legislation establishing a uniform process for broadcasters and newspapers to issue retractions, clarifications or corrections, thereby minimizing their legal exposure under such situations.

TAB and the Texas Press Association are jointly advancing HB 1759 which limits not only the eligibility to file a defamation claim, but also the punitive damages that could be sought.  Thirty other states have retraction statutes dating as far back as 1882.

Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, the bill’s House author, is also carrying HB 2934 which would prohibit electronic communications among public officials regarding matters under consideration during public meetings.

A third Hunter bill, HB 2935, clarifies the appropriate jurisdiction for cases brought under the anti-SLAPP litigation law TAB helped pass in 2011.

“We’re at a critical point in this year’s legislative session and will be calling on local broadcasters to contact their lawmakers at key points,” said TAB President Oscar Rodriguez.

“Constituent contacts make all the difference in these efforts, so members are encouraged to respond quickly to meet fast-moving deadlines.”

For more information on these and other bills TAB is tracking, contact TAB President Oscar Rodriguez or TAB Newsroom and Legal Services Director Michael Schneider.

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