“An open government is the cornerstone of a free society,” says the website of Attorney General Ken Paxton’s Open Records Division.
As a taxpayer, you can ask almost any question about how government agencies conducts public business. But in the world of the Texas Public Information Act, there are some exceptions to the rule.
It is understandable that a few elected officials, like state judges, would want to withhold a home address or phone number out of safety.
But one tiny change to the public information law this session created a big problem.
Senate Bill 705 by Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, allows information about any “applicant for an appointment by the Governor” to be withheld from disclosure under the public information law.
That means the public could not learn the home address, home telephone number or (understandably) Social Security number of anyone at all applying for an appointment.
Not just anyone appointed. This includes everyone who tried.
This law went into effect this May.
It doesn’t take much imagination to see that Mark or Mary Sue down the street could simply file an application for any appointive office, and then his or her contact information could never be disclosed, not even for a political campaign years later.
This law opens a loophole for withholding public information. That’s bad government.
The Texas Legislature should amend this law.