Never let it be said that our Lege does not have a finely honed sense of irony.
Last week, newspapers around the country banded together for Sunshine Week, an effort to publicize the importance of open government and public access of government records.
Today, the state House of Representatives responded by moving to take more records out of reach of the public.
The House voted to expand the definition of audits in the Texas Public Information Act. The word now includes audits that are authorized by city charters, ordinances and county commissioners’ court orders. Previously, the term referred only to audits authorized or required by a state or federal statute, according to a House Research Organization analysis.
The effect of the change is that working papers used to draft audits now would not have to be released to the public. Information that auditors discover but do not report might turn up in such working papers.
The vote was, apparently, unanimous. It was approved on a voice vote, meaning lawmakers did not have to publicly record their votes. The bill, House Bill 1285, still requires a final vote of the House as well as approval by the Texas Senate.
Sunshine? We don’t need no stinkin’ sunshine.
I must say, I was unimpressed with Sunshine Week. Not with the concept, which I think is valuable, but with the execution. Maybe other newspapers actually paid more attention to it than the Chron did, but a Sunday editorial followed by basically nothing isn’t my idea of a weeklong look at the value of open-government laws. If that’s what we have to expect, I’d say cut it back to a day and be done with it.