Madison Awards celebrate work by key capitol staff in restoring transparency

James Madison Awards were presented to Katy Aldredge, capitol director for Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, and Kelsey Erickson, general counsel to Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, during the John Henry Faulk Awards Luncheon at the Information Foundation of Texas conference. Shown are (from left) Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas Vice President Arif Panju, Aldredge, Erickson and Sen. Watson.

In recognition of their behind-the-scenes work in helping pass legislation restoring open government in Texas, two Texas Capitol aides were honored with James Madison Awards by the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas.
Kelsey Erickson, general counsel to Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, and Katy Aldredge, Capitol director for Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, received the awards at the foundation’s annual state conference.
Both worked over the past two years to assist Watson and Capriglione in successfully passing Senate Bill 943 and Senate Bill 944 in the 2019 Legislature. The two pieces of legislation repair and strengthen the Texas Public Information Act. Senate Bill 943 ensures that citizens can find out how their taxpayer money is spent on private sector and non-profit contracts. Senate Bill 944 addresses several aspects of the state’s open records law and, among other things, assures public access to government documents contained in officials’ private electronic accounts and devices.
Both awards were presented by Watson at the John Henry Faulk Awards luncheon.
Watson noted that Erickson first began working at the Texas Capitol as an intern in the governor’s office and has seen five legislative sessions. During that time she earned bachelor of arts and law degrees at the University of Texas at Austin. Before joining Watson’s staff in 2014, she worked on Sen. John Carona’s staff. 
Erickson participated in the Capital Punishment and Civil Rights Clinics and the Bill Archer Fellowship Program in Washington, D.C., interned at NBC’s Meet the Press and worked in the D.C. office of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP. She also interned for U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew W. Austin.
Aldredge has served as capitol director for Capriglione since 2014. She is also a veteran of five legislative sessions, having previously worked in various roles for Gov. Rick Perry and Reps. Linda Harper Brown, Stefani Carter and John Davis.
Watson said Aldredge’s calm patience during negotiations was a key factor in successfully passing Senate Bill 943 and Senate Bill 944.
A native of Austin, Aldredge is a seventh-generation Texan. She earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Texas State University in San Marcos.

OPEN GOVERNMENT LAWMAKER OF THE YEAR
The FOIFT Open Government Lawmaker of the Year honoree Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, was unable to attend the conference due to important work going on in his district. 
Moody, the speaker pro tem of the Texas House of Representatives, advocated for strengthening the Public Information Act and was a key player in successful legislation protecting Texans’ free speech rights, according to Laura Prather, co-chair of the FOI Foundation’s legislative committee. 
Moody serves as vice chair of the calendars committee and a member of the committees on business and industry, redistricting and criminal jurisprudence. 
He is an attorney, former prosecutor and founder of the bipartisan Criminal Justice Reform Caucus. He was first elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 2008. Texas Monthly has named him one of the state’s best legislators in 2017 and 2019.

SPIRIT OF FOI AWARDS
Winners in the Nancy Monson Spirit of FOI awards were KXAN TV and the Victoria Advocate.
KXAN was recognized for its series “Denied,” detailing some cases as examples of how law enforcement agencies used the “deceased suspect” loophole in the Texas Public Information Act to block release of records.
The Victoria Advocate was recognized for reporting by Jessica Priest about the Calhoun Port Authority, including alleged violations of the Open Meetings Act.
The Spirit of FOI awards recognize journalists and news organizations for outstanding reporting that upholds First Amendment principles, increases public access to government and improves awareness of state open government laws.