Member Login

Forgot Password?
Need Login?

You are here: Home > News & Events > News > Texas House Committee…
Welcome, guest: Login to your account

Texas House Committee Approves First of TAB Newsroom Priority Bills

The first of several bills that make up TAB’s package of newsroom priority legislation has been heard and approved by a Texas legislative committee.

HB 2309 by Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, would ensure public access to dates of birth in criminal justice and electoral candidate records and documents.

Hunter is chairman of the House State Affairs Committee which approved the bill Monday after taking  testimony on the measure last week.

Dates of birth are found in a multitude of public records, including the state’s sex-offender database, arrest and jail records, civil legal filings, candidate applications, voter registration rolls and others.

TAB supports restoring access to dates of birth in criminal justice and candidate public records to help ensure accuracy in newsgathering.

Public access to dates of birth has largely been cut off by two Texas court decisions that have caused confusion among governmental agencies about what records can be released.

Since the rulings, more than 28,000 Texas attorney general decisions have been issued shutting off access to information.

The result is the inability to verify information when dealing with common names.

In can be particularly daunting when reporting on elected officials for example.

Prior to last week’s hearing, TAB Newsroom Legislative Committee member Joe Ellis of KVUE-TV Austin found more than three hundred individuals with the same or similar name to the thirteen members of the House State Affairs Committee that heard HB 2309.

In fact, two of the committee members, Vice Chairman Ana Hernandez, D-Houston, and St. Rep. Chris Turner, D-Dallas, each have more than 100 individuals with their same or similar names living in Texas.

Disclosing dates of birth on applications filed by candidates for public office also helps the public properly identify and better understand who is on the ballot.

Recent examples of political candidate resume padding, or in some cases complete fabrication, have made news.

Disclosing dates of birth in criminal justice documents, such as arrest records, is crucial to identifying the correct person at the time an arrest is made.

A newsroom’s inability to verify the right individual when reporting on a crime could easily lead to legal action against a station if the wrong individual was reported.

It also ensures that background check companies and other businesses can obtain accurate information when deciding who to hire.

Allowing public access to dates of birth in these limited contexts does not create significant privacy or security issues.

Similar measures passed the Senate in 2017, and the House in 2019 and 2021, but have not passed both houses in the same session.

TAB’s Newsroom Legislative Committee member Laura Prather, an attorney and partner with TAB Associate member law firm Haynes Boone law firm, testified on behalf of TAB, the Texas Press Association, and the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas.

Prather explained the problems journalists face without access to DOB information, especially in cases involving like-named individuals.

TAB is working intently to have the House versions of its newsroom priority legislation heard as soon as possible.

House lawmakers will soon face specific bill deadlines to move their legislation or else those bills will start dying.

The first such deadline is Monday, May 8, the last day House committees can report House bills and joint resolutions.

That’s about six weeks away, which may seem like an eternity, but in legislative timing, it isn’t.

It takes a good deal of time to hear and vote on a bill in committee, report it out of committee, and get it to the House Calendars Committee in time for consideration for a House calendar.

As a practical matter, any House bill that stands a chance of making a House calendar for consideration by the full chamber needs to be out of committee by the end of April, preferably by the third week of that month.

TAB will keep stations informed as hearings for TAB newsroom priority bills are scheduled.

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

« Back to News Archive
« Back to Latest News