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Some Seek Loopholes in Strong Texas Public Information Act

A year ago, the Texas Legislature amended the state’s Public Information Act to give citizens and journalists greater access to public records and the discussions of public officials. Gov. Rick Perry signed it into law, but did he mean it? Officials across Texas are circumventing some of the key provisions of the state’s 41-year-old Public Information Act, considered by many First Amendment advocates to be one of the strongest in the country. Requests that have been refused in recent months include access to Perry’s travel records, as well as certain court proceedings and records of chemical stockpiles. Journalists have also been denied the right to visually record police activity. So-called “security concerns” are routinely used to refuse access. And in some court cases, the claim is that releasing records poses a “prospective” risk of harm. The denials conflict with an otherwise strong Public Information Act that has gotten stronger over the years to include a shield law and a law to dismiss frivolous SLAPP suits, or “strategic lawsuits against public participation.”