Gov. Abbott Signs Bill To Strengthen Government Transparency

Gov. Abbott Signs Bill To Strengthen Government Transparency

Staff Reports

On Monday, Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill relating to the disclosure of certain contracting information under the public information law.

Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, served as one of four primary authors of Senate Bill 943, which addresses loopholes opened by two 2015 Texas Supreme Court decisions in Texas’s Public Information Act.

The court cases allowed state agencies and local governments to conceal certain information from the public regarding how taxpayer money was spent on outside contractors and quasi-governmental entities.

In Boeing vs. Paxton and Greater Houston Partnership vs. Paxton’s court rulings, the governments were given the right to withhold records of contracts if the vendors claimed the information would provide competitors with an unfair advantage.

The court rulings also allowed governments to withhold information and records regarding quasi-governmental entities dealings in which taxpayer money was involved.

SB 943 states that contracting information is public and must be released unless excepted from disclosure under chapter 522.

However, the bill specifies certain information that must be released to the public including contract terms describing prices, relevant dates, deadlines and information regarding whether duties were performed.

The bill passed in the Senate Business and Commerce Committee and the House State Affairs Committee with nine Ayes.

According to the Texas Legislature Online, the bill was signed in both the house and the Senate on May 25 and sent to the Governor.

The bill states that it will take effect on January 1, 2020.


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