Q: If I file a public information request for a copy of a contract from a local governmental body, and they deny my request and then seek a Texas Attorney General opinion as to the validity of their denial, would the local governmental body have to provide a copy of the contract to the Attorney General as part of the process?
A: Let’s check the Texas Attorney General’s 2018 Public Information Handbook, Section VI, titled, “Attorney General Determines Whether Information Is Subject to an Exception.”
Skip down to where it says the governmental body, as part of the request for an AG opinion, must submit:
(B) a copy of the written request for information;
(C) a signed statement as to the date on which the written request for information was received by the governmental body or evidence sufficient to establish that date; and
(D) a copy of the specific information requested, or submit representative samples of the information if a voluminous amount of information was requested.”
Then, see subparagraph (2), which requires the governmental body to label that copy of the specific information, or of the representative samples, to indicate which exceptions apply to which parts of the copy.
So, for the purpose of argument, let’s stick to what the handbook says. Your local governmental body would have to submit a copy of the whole contract to the AG, because your request is for a complete copy of the contract.
But if you read farther down in Section VI to subparagraph (e-1) you will find this sentence:
“Governmental bodies are cautioned against redacting more than that which would reveal the substance of the information requested from the comments sent to the requestor.”
So, you may infer there is a chance that if you eventually receive a copy of the contract, there could be black streaks through the very parts you wanted to read.
The important thing is to file a public information request and to familiarize yourself with the process, so you can explain to your readers what the local governmental body has done and what you’ve done to get access to any official documentation. And, if your readers can tolerate a high fog factor, you can quote key passages from the Public Information Handbook to educate them about rights of access. As it says in the preamble to the Texas Public Information Act, “The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.”
Q: Does the Texas Press Association have barcode placement rules? We are thinking of moving our price barcode from the bottom of the paper to above the fold. A coworker told me TPA rules say it must be at the bottom of the paper and I just needed to check on that.
A: TPA is a trade association, not a regulatory authority. TPA does not have any such rules.
But there are guidelines for placement of barcodes posted online by GS1 US Inc., a not-for-profit organization “dedicated to the adoption and implementation of standards-based, global supply chain solutions.”
The website is https://www.gs1us.org and there you will find that the organization, in its 96-page PDF publication, “Guidelines for Bar Code Symbol Placement,” suggests the best placement for a barcode on the front of a newspaper is the lower-left corner and for the back page of a newspaper, the lower-right corner.
Also, the GS1 US Inc. publication mentions an “edge rule” emphasizing that the barcode symbol “cannot be closer than 8 mm (0.3 inches) or farther than 102 mm (4 inches) from any edge.”
Q: What does Texas law say about the requirement for an appraisal district to notify residents about how and when they can protest their taxes?
A: See Tax Code Sec. 41.70, Public Notice of Protest and Appeal Procedures. It says:
(a) On or after May 1 but not later than May 15, the chief appraiser shall publish notice of the manner in which a protest under this chapter may be brought by a property owner. The notice must describe how to initiate a protest and must describe the deadlines for filing a protest. The notice must also describe the manner in which an order of the appraisal review board may be appealed. The comptroller by rule shall adopt minimum standards for the form and content of the notice required by this section.
(b) The chief appraiser shall publish the notice in a newspaper having general circulation in the county for which the appraisal district is established. The notice may not be smaller than one-quarter page of a standard-size or tabloid-size newspaper, and may not be published in the part of the paper in which legal notices and classified advertisements appear.
Q: My one-person editorial department wants access to as much grand jury indictment information as she can get, including a list of no-bills. What should we know before we start?
A: There is a tremendous resource on the topic. It’s a Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel guest column by media attorney Joe Larsen, posted Aug. 17, 2016. You will find the column at https://tinyurl.com/y9y9n8mb.
Make sure to read comments below Larsen’s column by Texas Press Association Executive Vice President Donnis Baggett, media attorney Joel White, and Sam Bassett, past president of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.