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Texas Broadcasters Press Legislators to Restore Texas’ Sunshine Laws

More than 120 local Television and Radio broadcasters from across Texas converged on Austin yesterday, pressing state legislators to restore the Texas Public Information Act’s ability to ensure that Texans know how their tax dollars are being spent and how policy decisions are being made.

The entreaties are a reaction to various state court rulings from the past few years that have spawned a system of secret government contracts across all levels of Texas government.  Increasingly, Texans don’t know how billions of tax dollars are being spent. 

TAB and 15 other statewide public interest groups have joined forces to advance four amendments to the state’s Sunshine Laws. The amendments would:

  • Restore Texans’ access to final government contracts with private companies,
  • Shed light once again on public funds given to non-profits to perform government functions,
  • Provide access to deliberations of public business conducted in private electronic accounts (already classified as a public record) to prevent corruption, and
  • Restore public access to dates of birth contained in public records to ensure proper identification of individuals.

Texas’ Open Government laws once stood as a model for the nation’s 49 other states. Now, Texas is the only state in the country where contractors can decide to keep their contracts secret by claiming – with little, if any, proof – that allowing their release would place them at a potential competitive disadvantage.  This, despite the Texas Public Information Act’s existing explicit protection of trade secrets.

These rulings are fostering distrust in government, creating a breeding ground for corruption, and stifling competition for government contracts.

Legislation incorporating addressing these concerns is being developed by Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake; Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi; and Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin. All three lawmakers carried similar legislation in 2017 which passed the Senate twice but was blocked in the House.

Broad Public Support
A November 2018 poll by Baselice & Associates demonstrates that Texas voters – by a more than 2 to 1 margin – support legislation restoring public access to this information and say it’s imperative that lawmakers act now in order to prevent corruption.

Support cuts across all key demographics:  Republicans and Democrats…Rural and Urban…Female and Male…Young and Old.

The issue also is included in the platforms of the Republican and Democratic parties. And 16 different organizations – far right, far left and non-partisan – have formed the Texas Sunshine Coalition to address this issue in the 86th Texas Legislature.

Coalition members include:

  • ACLU Texas
  • Common Cause
  • Center for Public Policy Priorities
  • Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas
  • Institute for Justice
  • League of Women Voters of Texas
  • Public Citizen
  • Public Data
  • R Street
  • Society of Professional Journalists
  • Texans Uniting for Reform & Freedom
  • Texas Action
  • Texas Association of Broadcasters
  • Texas Association of Licensed Investigators
  • Texas Press Association
  • Texas Public Policy Foundation

Questions? Contact TAB’s Oscar Rodriguez or call (512) 322-9944.

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