Editor’s note: The news industry and open government advocates celebrate the importance of access to public information during Sunshine Week, March 15-21. The Telegram is running a series of stories showing the importance of open government, including this by our local state senator.
Hello friends, as your state senator for District 24 I’d like to share a few thoughts about the importance of Sunshine Week, and government transparency. Perhaps at no time in history, in my opinion, has the need for openness and transparency been more important.
Today’s headlines are filled with claims of “fake news” and “bias” in our news media, leaving all of us to wonder what information we read, hear or see on television is real and what’s not. I believe that uncertainty is a large part of the reason more and more people are distrustful of government, its leaders and the news media, and choose to “tune out” rather than “tune in,” and “get involved.”
In my opinion, this is neither helpful nor healthy. I believe an uninformed electorate is dangerous for the values we believe in as proud Texans and Americans. Protecting open records, open meetings and public notices is something we must all support along with the constitutional protections of a free and open press.
During the 86th legislative session, I took the lead to try and make sure some of the TV advertisements you are bombarded with at home regarding the safety of some of the medications you may be taking are not “deceptively” portrayed as dangerous by some legal advertisements.
Senate Bill 1189, which I authored, will significantly stop this fraudulent practice by requiring transparency and accountability for these attorney-paid ads. This legislation requires these types of advertisements to properly warn patients it is dangerous to stop taking certain prescribed medications before consulting with your doctor.
The “teeth” in the bill provides civil penalties on those who intentionally market these dangerous and deceptive ads. It is simply wrong to allow deceptive advertising that might unnecessarily scare people to the point of stopping taking certain necessary medications.
A survey conducted by Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse reported 82 percent of doctors surveyed found that such ads could lead patients to stop taking their prescribed medications and 66 percent of their patients questioned their recommended course of treatment because of something they saw on TV, in a deceptive lawsuit ad.
The premise is simple: require common-sense disclaimers to be included in advertising to make sure Texans are not harmed, or misled, by harmful and deceptive advertising. And, it was greatly needed. According to a report by the American Tort Reform Association, TV viewers were subjected to more than 190,000 advertisements for legal services over six months in 2018, in Texas’ three largest media markets.
As an oculoplastic and reconstructive surgeon, I know how dangerous abruptly ending certain prescribed medications without doctor approval can be. As a mother of two, I also know how effectively deceptive some of these advertisements can appear. And, as a state senator who has heard the cries from patients in Senate District 24 for help, I knew the time for action was overdue.
I’m very proud to report that a majority of my colleagues in both the House and Senate agreed and voted to send SB 1189 to Gov. Gregg Abbott. On June 7, 2019, this improvement in government transparency became a state law in Texas.