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6 Investigates: Lawmakers repair loopholes in state Open Government laws

Posted: 4:37 PM, Jun 03, 2019
Updated: 2019-06-03 18:32:09-04

A handful of laws passed in the 86th Legislative session are being lauded by open government advocates.

Specifically, Senate Bill 943 reverses a Texas Supreme Court ruling that effectively made it easy for private businesses to block public access to their business dealing with government agencies.

It’s a problem we featured earlier this year , when open government advocate Kelley Shannon told us the ruling – known as the “Boeing Decision” – had been used as a shield by local governments and contractors in blocking thousands of requests for specific information concerning contracts with private vendors.

A high-profile situation involving cities using “Boeing” to block information took place in McAllen.

That’s where city leaders blocked a request from local media for the costs associated with hiring Enrique Iglesias for a public Christmas performance.

But the SB 943’s passage, Shannon says once again, Texans will have access to such information.

“This legislation re-opens public access to all sorts of information about government contracts with private entities,” she told KRIS-6 News during a phone interview.

Other bills also cleared both houses and are set to become law, including a measure that will allow easier access to public business stored on private servers and on private cell phones.

Shannon tells us overall, a successful legislative session in the Open Government realm, thanks to a group of lawmakers – to include State Rep. Todd Hunter – who pushed for more transparency.

“There was a different makeup – a different mentality – that was much more open-government-oriented in the House of Representatives this session,” Shannon says.