11 proposed state law changes that could affect how the public accesses Texas open records

As the Texas legislature gets into full swing, a number of bills have been filed that could potentially impact current open records laws in Texas.

Here are 9 pieces of legislation that, if passed, would open public records laws further to allow easier access for to public information:

1. Senate Bill 407 and House Bill 792, filed by state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, and state Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, respectively, would eliminate the loophole private businesses can use to claim exceptions to open records based on maintaining a competitive advantage. The loophole originated in a Texas Supreme Court case involving Boeing. The sponsor of the House bill, state Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, said this loophole creates a category wide enough to render the Public Information Act useless.

2. Senate Bill 408 and House Bill 793, filed by Watson and Capriglione, addresses another loophole created in Greater Houston Partnership v. Paxton. The court case's decision changes language that allows publicly-supported private entities to withhold certain information. The two bills filed would require any private entity receiving public funds to comply with the Public Information Act unless money was received at an arms-length contract for services.

3. House Bill 2710, filed by state Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, maintains that dates of birth are public information. Birthdays are often key when trying to differentiate between persons with common names or when distinguishing if someone is old enough to run for office.

4. House Bill 2670, also filed by Hunter, creates a criminal offense for "temporary custodians" of public information who fail to submit public records held on private devices back to governmental bodies. If passed, this bill would improve access to government documents on private accounts.

5. House Bill 2441, filed by state Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth, makes clear under what circumstances juvenile court cases can be closed to the public. Currently, these types of cases can be closed for good cause shown.

6. House Bill 3234, filed by state Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, would eliminate a loophole that currently lets law enforcement close records because a suspect in an ongoing court case is dead. If this law is passed, that information would no longer be an allowed exception.

7. House Bill 349, filed by state Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, would require governmental bodies to disclose information related to the use of public funds used for a parade, concert, or other events open to the public. The bill also forbids contracts for these types of events being made with a clause prohibiting disclosure. In the past, governmental entities have claimed they don't need to disclose how much they paid entertainers for certain events because it would eliminate their competitive advantage in negotiating future contracts.

8. House Bill 523 and House Bill 1251, filed by state Rep. Mike Schofield, R-Katy, and state Rep. Scott Sanford, R-McKinney, respectively, relate to requiring the videotaping and posting of meetings online. In addition, Senate bills 116 through 127, all filed by state Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, would require the Internet broadcast of open meetings of various state agencies.

9. House Bill 3107, filed by state Rep. Trent Ashby, R-Lufkin, allows governmental agencies to protect themselves against requestors who repeatedly file requests but never come to pick up the requested information or pay the associated costs. It would also allow requesters to file complaints with the Attorney General's office should the local district or county attorney not take action on the complaint within 90 days.

Here are 2 other bills that, if passed, would make it harder for the public to access open records:

1. House Bill 526, filed by Schofield, would only allow individuals with primary residence within Texas to request records within the state. This would be problematic for those doing national research projects, individuals new to Texas or those from out of state requesting information from someone who lives in state, such as a parent or child.

2. House Bill 760, filed by state Rep. John Raney, R-College Station, would allow governmental bodies to redact dates of birth from any public records.


Hewlett Packard Enterprise
Hewlett Packard Enterprise to relocate headquarters from Silicon Valley to Springwoods Village

Hewlett Packard Enterprise announced Dec. 1 plans to relocate its headquarters from San Jose, California to a brand new campus in the Greater Houston area, which is under construction in CityPlace at Springwoods Village.

CCEMS provides emergency medical services for approximately 177 square miles of North Harris County. (Courtesy Cypress Creek EMS)
Judge rules Harris County Emergency Services District No. 11 can no longer withhold payments from Cypress Creek EMS

The ESD No. 11 board voted to terminate its contract with CCEMS on Sept. 3 after a long history of disagreements over the two entities’ 16-year relationship.

Houston Methodist The Woodlands Hospital is undergoing an expansion. (Andrew Christman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Work on $250M Houston Methodist The Woodlands Hospital expansion continues, completion expected in 2022

The new patient tower at Houston Methodist The Woodlands Hospital will include for 100 more beds.

Klein ISD is seeking community input on the calendar for the 2021-22 school year. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Klein ISD seeks community input on 2021-22 calendar

Option A has the first day of school Aug. 18 and the last day of school May 27, before Memorial Day. Option B has the first day of school Aug. 23 and the last day of school on June 2, after Memorial Day.

According to business owner Van Luu, Stylebook Alterations moved to a new location within the Tomball Parkway Plaza in September earlier this year. (Courtesy Stylebook Alterations)
Relocations, anniversaries and more: Here's the latest business news for Tomball, Magnolia

The Tomball Parkway Plaza has seen a new meat market open and a business relocate in recent months, among other business news for Tomball and Magnolia.

1611 South Blvd., Houston: This fully restored 1925 home features designer touches throughout, as well as a guest quarters with a full-size kitchen. 6 beds, 4.5 baths / 6,374 square feet. Sold for $4,418,001-$5,081,000 on Nov. 30. (Courtesy Houston Association of Realtors)
Heights-River Oaks-Montrose real estate: See some of the homes sold in November

Among the properties that sold are a 100-year-old First Ward bungalow with recent renovations, a 1925 restoration and a 2011 custom home in the Heights.

(Courtesy city of League City)
League City City Council approves incentive program to promote capital projects

Having invested over $60 million in capital improvement projects in fiscal year 2019-20, League City employees now have a greater incentive to invest even more in FY 2020-21.

Main Squeeze Juice opened in Pearland in November. (Courtesy Main Squeeze Juice)
ROUNDUP: 6 businesses that opened in Pearland, Friendswood this fall

Here are six businesses that opened in Pearland and Friendswood in September through November.

Commuters who use the Northwest Transit Center in Harris County will have access to close to double the amount of parking spaces after officials announced the opening of a new parking lot Dec. 1. (Courtesy Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County)
METRO adds more than 200 parking spaces at Northwest Transit Center amid improvement project

Commuters who use the Northwest Transit Center in Harris County will have access to close to double the amount of parking spaces after officials announced the opening of a new parking lot Dec. 1.

A majority of businesses within Houston's Inner Loop have managed to keep their retail spaces, but future post-COVID-19 success isn't certain. (Hunter Marrow/Community Impact Newspaper)
Retail leasing in Bellaire-Meyerland-West University absorbs a shock

So far, data on retail leasing shows occupancy and rents holding steady, but 2020 is not over yet.

As winter approaches, COVID-19 cases are up in Cy-Fair. (Courtesy Pexels)
COVID-19 diagnoses up nearly 100% month over month in Cy-Fair

DATA: The number of new COVID-19 cases confirmed locally throughout November nearly doubled over the previous month.

To support this initiative, community members are encouraged to visit NAM's Blessing Tree, located at 15555 Kuykendahl Road, Houston, where they can choose a child's name and shop specifically for that child. (Courtesy Northwest Assistance Ministries)
Northwest Assistance Ministries in need of donations to support biggest Season of Blessings campaign in nonprofit's history

Northwest Assistance Ministries is in need of toys, food and monetary donations to provide meals to more than 1,700 families and toys to more than 5,300 children this holiday season. By comparison, the nonprofit provided meals for 994 families and toys for 1,773 children in 2019.