UPDATE 5/30/23: HB 3033 passed the House and the Senate, and is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Abbott. The final version included an amendment to enhance transparency surrounding election records. The amendment, authored by Senator Paul Bettencourt, would exempt information related to an election from a provision of the Texas Public Information Act that allows a governmental entity to withhold information from an open records request if the information relates to pending or anticipated litigation.
This past Saturday, the Texas House of Representatives gave final approval to legislation that makes several changes to the Texas Public Information Act to enhance government transparency and deter government officials from obstructing the release of public information. The legislation, House Bill 3033 by Republican State Representative Brooks Landgraf, passed by a vote of 134-1.
Landgraf stated, “House Bill 3033 is about government transparency and accountability. When I first ran for the Texas House in 2014, I promised West Texans that I would fight for a more accountable government. House Bill 3033 is an extension of this commitment, and I firmly believe that it will ensure Texas and other governmental bodies are working in the best interests of their citizens. House Bill 3033 is a huge step in the right direction for Texas, and I look forward to working with my colleagues and others to fight for a more honest government.”
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Under HB 3033, the Attorney General will have the ability to require each public official of a governmental body to undergo mandatory training if the Attorney General determines that the governmental body violated a provision of the Texas Public Information Act.
Among other provisions, HB 3033 also clarifies that a governmental body cannot wait more than 30 days to provide a requester with public information that the Attorney General ruled must be released. The legislation also creates a searchable database that will allow the public to see when a governmental body seeks to withhold information sought in a public information request as well as the basis asserted by the governmental body seeking to withhold the information.
Some governmental entities, particularly Harris County, have come under fire recently from public transparency advocates for allegedly stonewalling public information requests. HB 3033 currently awaits action by the Texas Senate.