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Texas Legislators Push to Re-Open State Spending Data Next Session

Images Money/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

From Texas Standard:Citizens and journalists requesting Texas public records won’t have a lot of luck getting government contract information right now. Requests for information on nonprofits getting state funding also will come up short.

But two Texas lawmakers want to change that. Tuesday, Rep. Giovanni Capriglione (R-Southlake) and Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin) filed identical bills to  strengthen open records laws.


The  Texas Public Information Act used to be one of the strongest in the nation, but in 2015 two rulings weakened the state’s government transparency laws.  Boeing vs. Paxton made secret contracts between the state and private businesses.  Greater Houston Partnership vs. Paxton eschewed a precedent mandating nonprofits using government funds to disclose where their money was going.

The new bill would require private entities – like nonprofits and businesses – to  open up their records if they receive public funds or give services traditionally provided by a governmental body.

David McSwane with the  Dallas Morning News is reporting on the new bill. He says Capriglione and Watson hoping to get at least one version of the identical bill through the House or Senate.

"Coming out against the release of public records isn't a politically popular idea most of the time,” McSwane says. “If there is opposition I imagine it'll be behind the scenes."

The lawmakers worked in part with the Texas Freedom of Information Foundation, which supports more government transparency, to create the bills. Part of the reasoning is that the public should get to see where their tax dollars are going.

"The release of contracts can very easily make life difficult for a state agency or a local government,” McSwane says. “We've seen some pretty sweetheart deals in the past that have led to resignations and scandals and inquiries. ... In general, life's just easier for a government if they don't have to release these sorts of contracts."

Post by Beth Cortez-Neavel.

Copyright 2020 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.

Rhonda is the newest member of the KUT News team, joining in late 2013 as producer for KUT's new daily news program, The Texas Standard. Rhonda will forever be known as the answer to the trivia question, “Who was the first full-time hire for The Texas Standard?” She’s an Iowa native who got her start in public radio at WFSU in Tallahassee, while getting her Master's Degree in Library Science at Florida State University. Prior to joining KUT and The Texas Standard, Rhonda was a producer for Wisconsin Public Radio.