“Under the fundamental philosophy of the American constitutional form of representative government that adheres to the principle that government is the servant and not the master of the people, it is the policy of this state that each person is entitled, unless otherwise expressly provided by law, at all times to complete information about the affairs of government and the official acts of public officials and employees.”
-Texas Public Information Act
In the early 1970s, the Sharpstown Scandal rocked Texas. Over 20 Texas state officials – including the Texas Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the House – were implicated by federal law enforcement in a pay-for-play scheme of stock purchases in return for the passage of legislation sought by Houston businessman Frank W. Sharp.
In response to outrage over the scandal, in 1973, Texas passed the Texas Public Information Act, to ensure legislative and state records were open to the press and the public. The public’s right to know should prevail over government secrecy whenever possible. Oversight and accountability replaced secrecy and scandal; sunshine replaced shadow, and for decades Texas’ Sunshine Laws were among the strongest in the nation and used as a model for other states to follow.
Unfortunately, that is no longer the case.
After years of loopholes and carve-outs created by the legislature and Texas courts, the public’s right to information has been drastically curtailed- and once again allowed Texas government ability to shroud more and more of its operations in secrecy.
Time for Action
The Texas Sunshine Coalition is a non-partisan, grassroots organization dedicated to protecting Texas taxpayers by promoting greater access to public information and increasing government accountability and transparency at all levels of Texas government. The coalition is comprised of journalists, business leaders, legislators, attorneys, and citizens, all of whom are dedicated to promoting a government of the people, by the people, and for the people through the shared goal of transparency and open government.
The Texas Sunshine Coalition is dedicated to restoring the Texas Public Information Act to serve its intended purpose – ensuring Texans the right to request access to records from state government agencies and ensure informed oversight of our government.
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