Bell County’s legislators say they are committed to protecting Texans’ right to public information.
For Sunshine Week, the Temple Daily Telegram asked state Sen. Dawn Buckingham, R-Lakeway, and state Reps. Hugh Shine, R-Temple, and Scott Cosper, R-Killeen, their thoughts on how they are ensuring the public’s access to information.
“The citizens of Texas deserve an open and responsive government, and easy access to open records and public information are a key component of that obligation,” Cosper said.
Thanks to his seat on the General Investigating and Ethics House Committee, Shine will be the first to see some legislation that would alter the state’s public information laws. The committee has not seen any public information bills just yet.
“I have not seen the actual bills that have been filed because they delayed filing some of those until the last couple weeks,” Shine said. “When those are set for our committee hearings, I’ll have the chance then to see how they’re written and what they want to accomplish.”
Like Shine, Buckingham said she would evaluate each bill on its merits while also balancing the public’s right to know with Texans’ privacy rights.
Cosper said he will support any legislation that improves government transparency in the state.
Shine has a simple reason for why he supports access to public information: the taxpayers.
“I just want to make sure that we have transparency and that the men and women in our state who pay the taxes to get things done know exactly why and how that procedure works,” he said.
Buckingham echoed Shine on why she supports transparency.
“I believe transparency in government is one of the most crucial aspects of democracy,” Buckingham said. “Abuses of taxpayer funds must be dealt with immediately by law enforcement. We must make sure that money which could be used for our education or security is not being wasted by corruption.”
Some improvements can be made to the state’s open records laws, Buckingham said.
“We live in an age when technological advancements allow large amounts of data be made available for public review and consumption,” the Lakeway Republican said. “However, this often comes with an increased price tag for production and lawful information-redaction prior to public release — as required by law.”
Those advances in technology may be the solution to reducing the costs associated with open records requests.
“We must all work together to craft a more cost-effective effort to reduce public information compliance costs while protecting the public’s right to know, possibly by making more information available online.”
Staff writer Cody Weems contributed to this report.