FOIA reform bill set to become law

July 6, 2016

By Richard Karpel

NNA Public Policy

WASHINGTON—Generally speaking, public policy in Washington is a game of inches. Move the ball forward a little, consolidate your gains, and then do it again. Keep pushing your agenda until you eventually reach the goal line.

Smith County judge charged, suspended

TYLER — Smith County Judge Joel Baker was booked into the Smith County jail July 17 on a misdemeanor charge of violating the Texas Open Meetings Act.

Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith said Baker turned himself in after 5 p.m. and was released by 6 p.m. Friday.

Baker is charged with three counts of violating the Texas Open Meetings Act, a misdemeanor.

A warrant was issued Thursday by a Smith County grand jury out of the 114th District Court, Smith said. Baker's bond was set at the maximum of $2,000.

Montgomery County officials indicted

A grand jury has indicted Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal and two commissioners, charging them with violating Texas' open meetings law last year while developing a bond package for new and improved roads.

Traffic-weary voters in the rapidly growing county approved the $280 million financing proposal, but the indictments left Doyal and Commissioners Jim Clark and Charlie Riley to face criminal charges for their actions in getting it on the ballot.

Waco gag order lifted

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has thrown out a gag order that prohibited bikers charged in a deadly May 2015 shootout from talking to the media. The court issued an order June 15 that lifted a stay that had been in place since August, when the court ruled that the gag order was wrong but allowed it to stay in place pending further consideration. 

FOI Foundation receives grant for open government guidebook

The Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas has been awarded a grant of $3,500 from the Texas Bar Foundation to produce a concise guidebook on state open government laws and the public’s right to know.

The “Guide to Texas Open Records and Open Meetings Laws” will be available in printed form at FOI Foundation of Texas events beginning later this year. It will also be published online.

Prosecutor will extend or restart grand jury process for TOMA investigation - Your Houston News

Six months after launching an investigation into whether some members of Montgomery County Commissioners Court violated the Texas Open Meetings Act, the Houston-based special prosecutor assigned to the case is weighing his options as the grand jury cycle comes to a close Thursday.

Source: Prosecutor will extend or restart grand jury process for TOMA investigation - Your Houston News: News

Ten Commandments for Open Meetings |

Consider the following list our Fourth Estate counsel to county commissions, city councils, and school boards everywhere on executive sessions and general government openness. Citizens should hold their elected officials to the standards below. These are Ten Commandments for Open Meetings:

ONE: Do not gather as a quorum outside of regular meetings, and do not hold special meetings without giving at least 24 hours public notice.

Five open-government champs

As the nation celebrates Sunshine Week, a week highlighting the importance of open government, it is a good time to reflect on lawmakers in Texas who are helping to improve transparency and protect the state's strong Public Information Act.

Source: Five open-government champs