In a democracy, citizens need to be informed about what actions their public officials take. This concept applies not only at the national and state level, but in local governments, school boards and even other entities. Several are required to abide by Texas’ Public Information Act. As part of that, they must keep certain information open to public, such as decisions on new developments or budgets or taxes.
The number of entities that must follow the Texas Public Information Act are more than many citizens might realize. They include the following:
- Any board, commission, committee, department, institution or agency created by the legislative branch or executive branch and directed by more than one elected or appointed members
- A Texas county commissioners court
- Any municipal governing body
- A school district board
- A county board of school trustees
- A county board of education
- A local workforce board
- The governing board of a special school district
- A nonprofit organization that provides water or wastewater service and is exempt from taxation
- A nonprofit eligible for federal block grants and that serves a specific geographic area of Texas
- Any organization, agency or institution supported by public funds
Information Act training for public officials
As of 2006, Texas requires public officials who serve on one of these types of entities or work for the state, city or county government to undergo training about the Public Information Act. They need to understand what information to release and when certain items must be kept confidential.
Public officials also need to understand what the penalties are for not complying with the Public Information Act.
The Texas Public Information Act was created to keep government entities accountable to citizens. Those agencies, organizations and groups that follow its guidelines will have a more open dialogue with the citizens they serve. Having an open dialogue with citizens helps create a greater trust and understanding about how public officials serve their communities.