The state Senate has given a preliminary nod this week to legislation that would make taxpayer-funded chambers of commerce and economic development agencies subject to the state’s transparency laws.
Senate Bill 1829 adds a new section to the Public Information Act to ensure that nonprofit operations, including chambers and other economic development corporations, comply with public records law when conducting activities that use taxpayer funds.
The bill is authored by Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio.
Many economic development groups in the state are funded wholly or in part by public money yet maintain they are immune from transparency laws and seek attorney general rulings, often losing but successfully delaying the release of information.
In some cases, they say they are subject to open records laws but not open meetings, as in the case of the Plano Economic Development Board.
Perry had awarded more than $16 million from the fund to companies with investors or officers who were Perry campaign donors, though the governor denied that the fund was driven by politics.
Senate Bill 1069, authored by Sen. Mike Jackson, R-Pasadena, was approved Thursday and was prompted by a state audit that found the fund created in 2005 by Perry’s administration was in bad need of some transparency.
The bill requires the governor’s office to post the names of grant recipients on its Web site, also including “a brief description of the equity position that the governor, on behalf of the state, may take in companies receiving awards and the names of the companies in which the state has taken an equity position.” The bill mandates disclosure of the intended result of the grant and the actual result.
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