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Are Texas Open Government Laws Being Misused Amid The COVID-19 Crisis?

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Photo by Element5 Digital from Pexels CC0: https://bit.ly/32uwSYJ
Photo by Element5 Digital from Pexels CC0: https://bit.ly/32uwSYJ

Public access to government records, meetings and offices has been largely restricted or shut down for months due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Some governments have pointed to a provision in the law allowing “catastrophe notices” which postpone public information request responses in the event of a public crisis such as a hurricane, flood or epidemic.

Open government advocates say the law isn't being applied uniformly across Texas and worry governments will take advantage of the ongoing pandemic to misuse the provision or apply it indefinitely.

What's at stake if public access to government records remains restricted? Who does it affect?

Is there a way to responsibly use the catastrophe provision? What evidence do we have of misuse?

What can be done to shore up Texas' Public Information and Open Meetings acts and ensure government accountability?


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*This interview was recorded on Wednesday, November 11.

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Kathleen Creedon can be reached at kathleen@tpr.org or on Twitter at @Kath_Creedon