in Houston, Texas
Lawmaker wants to let governments sue you for asking for too many records
Sunday, Mar 15, 2009, 07:51AM CST
By Jennifer Peebles
Bad news here on the eve of National FOI Day and the beginning of Sunshine Week: A state House member from New Braunfels wants to allow government agencies to sue people who ask for a lot of public records and whom governments consider to be a nuisance, The Herald-Zeitung is reporting.

Rep. Doug Miller has filed House Bill 3541.



The bill states its purpose is “to enhance and preserve the public’s ability to obtain effective responses to legitimate requests for information pursuant to the public information law.”

It essentially gives any governmental body the ability to file suit against an “abusive requestor” of public information — which is defined as someone who “has made at least five requests for public information” in the past seven years that the government has deemed abusive, harrassing or wasting public funds and time of public employees.


Ouch. I know Texas already has a "paper terrorism" law on the books that sounds similar to this -- some folks at a Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas meeting I attended last fall in Austin were talking about trying to get the legislature to broaden the press' protections against it.

You can read the full text of the bill at this link on the legislature's Web site and track it through the legislature's MyTLO free online bill tracking service.

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Comments
Momentary Tingle
Sunday, 03/15/2009 - 09:48AM

Very interesting that you did not mention the party of Rep. Miller. He is a REPUBLICAN. Why did you not mention his party affiliation? It is STANDARD to always identify the party affiliation of an elected official when writing about them. Was this intentional, or just another "oversight.?"

Momentary Tingle
Sunday, 03/15/2009 - 10:00AM

The Society of Professional Journalists says that a publication should identify the party affiliation of an elected official when reporting about him or her. Why does Texas Watchdog not follow the guidelines endorsed by the Society of Professional Journalists? I guess because no one working for Texas Watchdog is actually from Texas, let alone a professional journalist.

Jennifer Peebles
Monday, 03/16/2009 - 07:21AM

Everyone,

Hi. It's Jennifer P. here from Texas Watchdog. I'm writing here to make public a note that we sent just now to a frequent commenter on our message board.

Take care,

Jennifer Peebles

jennifer@texaswatchdog.org

NOTE TEXT FOLLOWS

Momentary Tingle,

Hi. It's Jennifer Peebles here from Texas Watchdog. A couple of comments you posted to our site over the weekend have prompted us to write you this note.

I'm sorry you take issue with our Web site, our existence, and so many of the stories and blog posts we write. We've appreciated you reading us, and we appreciated you and others taking time to post your comments in our online forum, even when your posts were critical of us. We want our forums to be a place where people can have open debate about the things we write about.

But, as you have continued to constantly post to our forums -- and consistently post, always, about your dislike of Texas Watchdog and personal attacks on the staff -- I'm becoming greatly concerned that you're driving off other folks from posting in our forums.

Some of our forums are taking on the feel not of a venue for robust public debate with many viewpoints, but as an angry conversation between two parties -- you, spewing bile at us, and Texas Watchdog staff responding back to you politely.

When that happens, I think it makes other folks less comfortable posting their comments -- they feel less like they're going to be heard, and more like they've walked into a party where the host and one of the guests are arguing at loud volume next to the punch bowl.

In other words, I'm concerned that you've become a "troll" on our message boards.

To that end, I'm asking you to knock it off with the personal attacks and constant assaults on Texas Watchdog in our forums. Certainly there are many other avenues on the Internet where you are free to voice all the criticism us that you like, such as your own blog, but we want our forums not to become solely an angry conversation between you and us.

Regards,

Jennifer Peebles

Texas Watchdog

Dianna Pharr
Tuesday, 03/17/2009 - 07:33AM

Just found this update: Miller files bill vs. ‘abusive requestors'

Link here: http://herald-zeitung.com/story.lasso?ewcd=256bca9ddb0cea95

Dianna Pharr

www.keepeanesinformed.com

Charles W. Isbell
Wednesday, 03/18/2009 - 12:53PM

My wife is Poll Judge in our

precinct.

Last Nov., 2008, we had an unreal turn-out, with problems to match; most common: drivers license(s)

for I.D.-- in Dallas County it is quite easy/simple for anyone (especially an ILLEGIAL ALIEN!) to obtain a Texas drivers license (false, of course!)! Just go to some W. Dallas pawn shop, etc., and \\"if you got the money, they got the time!\\", regardless of your Nationality, statehood, or race!

COR News Editor
Monday, 03/23/2009 - 07:49AM

Public information should not ever be a matter of political debate. Citizens who do not recognize that the primary obligation of government is to conduct the peoples\' business need to go back to school.

The way to fix this problem is not to further restrict access to public information, or to penalize anyone for asking too many questions. To fix the problem the system of request and delivery must be fundamentally changed.

This good representative of the people needs to withdraw this onerous attempt to make the request and distribution of public information more complicated and introduce a bill that will require those subject to open records to establish on line repositories freely available to the public. And, for those documents that are squirreled away and under the thumb of errant public servants who are hiding secrets from the public, they need to be openly available through the local public library system (with a bit of \"Sandy Burglar\" security enhancement).

With these solutions in place, public information would be more open and available to the public without the hassle of having to deal with covetous public servants bent on conducting public business in a private manner. And, the insult of weasels who work their way into an ability to control the release of information and withhold their funny business from the public would be minimized, or eliminated, to the extent they may also exert some influence over the public library.

COR News Editor
Monday, 03/23/2009 - 08:09AM

The voter I.D. bill is a good start, but there's a better solution available. Given reliable authentication and qualification of those who have a record in the voter registration data base, and, a State wide system of photo identification for any kind of access to public services, a voter need not present any document at the polls.

At least in Dallas County, the voter registration database has the capability of including an image of the registered voter. If any person registering to vote has any kind of State issued photo I.D., that image could be linked and fed to the voter registration database.

When a voter appears at the polls and submits their identity for qualification, the elections clerk enters a few pieces of information provided by the person wishing to vote. A question or two could be asked to verify their knowledge of the on-screen information, and, if the picture matches the person the clerk is staring in the face, they get to vote.

Jennifer Peebles
Monday, 03/23/2009 - 02:40PM

COR News Editor,

Welcome to the site!

-- Jennifer P

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