Legislation Gov. Rick Perry signed into law last week will give Texans greater access to the records and actions of their public officials.
The bills update the Texas Public Information and Texas Open Meetings acts along with measures to protect freedom of speech and the press, the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas announced Monday.
The bills are among the major legislation supported by the non-profit group during the 2013 regular legislative session, which concluded May 27.
Updates to the Texas Public Information Act are expected to help avoid future confusion and wasting of taxpayer dollars on unnecessary litigation. Electronic communications relating to official business would be accessible by law to the public, even if sent from a private e-mail account or mobile device. And, contracts between a state governmental entity and a vendor involving the exchange or creation of public information will be made available to the public.
Victoria Advocate is still waiting for records requested May 15 and May 21 to be made available from the Victoria City Council. The requests are for e-mail correspondence, sent from personal or city accounts, that relate to public business. The records should shed light on a possible violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act that occurred before the May 14 meeting.
Bills signed into Law:
SB 1368: Modernizes the Texas Public Information Act by specifying that electronic messages dealing with official business are public and providing that contracts between a state governmental entity and a vendor involving the exchange or creation of public information contain a provision that requires the vendor to make the information publicly available. (SB 1368 was authored by Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, and sponsored by Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston. It was amended with the electronic communication language of SB 1563, authored by Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, and sponsored by Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi.)
SB 1297: Allows members of a governmental body to communicate in writing about official business between meetings on a publicly accessible, real-time online message board. (Authored by Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, and sponsored by Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas.)
HB 1759: Provides a framework for someone who believes he or she has been defamed in a publication or broadcast to come forward in a timely fashion to request a retraction, correction or clarification or else seek only limited civil damages. (Authored by Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, and sponsored by Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston.)
HB 2935: Clarifies the right to appeal protection for whistleblowers, journalists and bloggers in lawsuits filed with the intent of clamping down on free speech. (Authored by Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, and sponsored by Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston.)
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