How Texans’ Tax Dollars Are Being Spent
Boeing v. Paxton Ruling’s Impact on Open Government
In less than four years, more than 2,000 opinions of the Texas attorney general have cited Boeing Co. v. Paxton, 466 S.W.3d 831 (Tex. 2015), as part of their the justification for denying the public’s requests to access information that could otherwise be subject to required public disclosure under the Public Information Act, chapter 552 of the Government Code. Section 552.104(a) of the Government Code excepts from disclosure “information that, if released, would give advantage to a competitor or bidder.” Gov’t Code § 552.104(a).
The Boeing case states that the “test under section 552.104 is whether knowing another bidder’s [or competitor’s information] would be an advantage, not whether it would be a decisive advantage.” This analysis highlights some egregious examples of government secrecy that exploded in Boeing’s wake.
Greater Houston Partnership v. Paxton Ruling’s Impact on Open Government
The Texas Supreme Court decided Greater Houston Partnership v. Paxton, 468 S.W.3d 51 (Tex. 2015) in June 2015. The decision heightened the standard for an entity to be deemed a governmental body, resulting in a lower threshold for such an entity to deny information to the public. The Texas Attorney General has cited Greater Houston Partnership 35 times since June 2015. The AG has cited the case on multiple occasions as a basis for denying information to the public.
Paxton v. City of Dallas Ruling’s Impact on Open Government
Dates of birth are found in a multitude of public records, including sex offender database, jail records, civil legal filings, election candidate applications, voter registration rolls and others. Paxton v. City of Dallas has caused confusion among governmental agencies and has resulted in the inability to verify the accuracy of information when dealing with common names.
In 2017, legislative efforts to address these issues failed in the Texas House, meaning these – and other- loopholes continue to be used to shroud vital records from public view and keep Texans in the dark.