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Posted: Feb 8, 2013 11:15 AM

Updated: Feb 8, 2013 11:15 AM


Welcome to the latest installment of the Texas Association of Broadcasters' Open Government/Newsroom Billwatch.

The 83rd Texas Legislature has convened and TAB's Newsroom Legislative Committee is at work with its session-long review of bills that might impact Texas broadcast newsrooms.

With about 1,700 bills and resolutions filed thus far, the task force has identified approximately 85 with an Open Government or newsroom impact.

A sampling of what's been filed follows below:

HB 905 - Former Lawmaker Lobbying By Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin

Would prohibit lobbying by a former member of the legislature before the second anniversary of the date the last term for which the former member was elected ended. It would not apply if the former lawmaker represents a nonprofit organization; an individual; a group of low-income individuals; or a group of individuals with disabilities; and receives no compensation for doing so.

HB 912 - Drones By Rep. Lance Gooden, R-Terrell

Would ban drone surveillance of private property by government or the private sector. The Federal Aviation Administration currently prohibits commercial use of "unmanned aircraft," or drones - meaning it is against the law to capture video or images from the sky and use them for business purposes. However, the FAA is planning on releasing rules governing the commercial use of drones by mid-2014. There are some newsrooms that already have used the drone aircraft for reporting purposes. RTDNA Chairman Vincent Duffy recently wrote about that prospect and the use of drones as a cost effective alternative to helicopters. As written, this bill would likely holster that prospect.

HB 918 and HB 946 - School District Arrests By Rep. Armando Walle, D-Houston and Rep. Helen Giddings, D-Dallas

Both of these bills would require school districts to report annually to the TEA the number of citations issued and arrests of students made by campus police. The data will include age, gender, race/ethnicity, nature of offense, time of offense (during school hours), on school property, off school property while attending a school sponsored or related activity, and campus of enrollment. Information concerning arresting officers will not be subject to disclosure under the TPIA. Personally identifiable student information as defined by FERPA will not be part of the report by the district. The aggregate data will be available to the public.

HB 919 - TPIA / Law Enforcement Vehicles By Rep. Allen Fletcher, R-Tomball

Adds another provision to so-called "law enforcement exception", 552.108 of the Texas Public Information Act. This proposal says information that would directly or indirectly reveal the physical location of or route used by a peace officer or vehicle operated by a peace officer could be withheld. It also says vehicle information may also be withheld if the law enforcement agency determines that the release of the information may create a hazard to a peace officer, the public, or another person.

HB 951 and SB 386 - Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas By Rep. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland and Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth

Both of these bills are reform measures for the beleaguered Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas. Each sets forth standards of conduct and conflict of interest guidelines for employees and its board. One measure creates whistleblower confidentiality. As to Open Records, the records of the institute and of a nonprofit organization established to provide support to the institute shall, to the extent the records pertain specifically to any gift, grant, or other consideration, be public.

HB 973 - TPIA / Public Retirement Systems By Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake

Strikes the provision in recent law giving the Employees Retirement System of Texas sole discretion in determining whether a record relating to a payee is subject to release. This week a state district judge in Austin upheld the current law in a suit brought by Texans for Public Justice who sought aggregate pension information for former lawmakers.

HB 987 - TPIA / Motor Vehicle Records By Rep. Marisa Marquez, D-El Paso

Currently driver's license and personal identification document information may be redacted from motor vehicle records without an AG review before the records are released to the public. This bill adds motor vehicle title or registration information to that list.

HB 987 - TPIA / School Marshals By Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas

Would create "school marshals" similar to the in-flight air marshals aboard planes at public schools in Texas. For Open Records purposes, information related to their identity would not be subject to release.

SB 408 - TPIA / Texas Dept. of Licensing and Regulation By Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas

Amends an existing law related to complaints made to and investigations conducted by the Texas Dept. of Licensing and Regulation. This proposal tweaks provisions shielding investigatory files by allowing access to such information by department employees; parties to the proceeding; a licensing or disciplinary board in another jurisdiction; law enforcement agency; or a person engaged in bona fide research, if all information identifying a specific person has been deleted. So what is public? The filing of formal proceedings against a person by the department, the nature of those proceedings, disciplinary proceedings of the department, and final disciplinary actions, including warnings and reprimands by the department.



Contact TAB's Michael Schneider: 512-322-9944

Topics: TABillwatch

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