Know open government rights by remembering these basics

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Know open government rights by remembering these basics

Whatever our political views, certainly we can agree we have the right to know how government is conducting business. How are taxpayer dollars spent? Who is influencing decisions?

Access to information allows us to speak up and hold public officials accountable, while a lack of transparency diminishes trust in government.

The Texas Public Information Act and Texas Open Meetings Act are the state’s main open government laws. Based on recent frequently asked questions about these laws, here are a few important reminders:

Requested information must be provided promptly. That means as soon as possible and without delay. It’s a misconception that a governmental body, once it receives a written request for information, can wait up to 10 days to make the records available. Ten business days is the deadline under the Public Information Act for the governmental entity to ask for a Texas attorney general ruling if it is attempting to withhold information.

Records requests can be made in multiple ways. Some government offices these days insist that requestors use a specific online form when making a public records request. Wrong! Using an online form is optional. Written requests may also be made via email, regular or certified mail or hand delivery. If you wish to email your request and can’t find the appropriate address on a government’s website, call and ask for it. Note: If a government office designates a single email address for records requests, then emailed requests must be sent there.

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