House Backs Updating Rules on Political Ad Disclosures

Updated, May 9, 2:55 p.m.: On the final day for the Texas House to pass House bills, a bill by state Rep. Jim Murphy, R-Houston, to modernize Texas' political disclosure laws was approved by the members on third reading. It now moves to the Senate for their consideration.

Original story, May 8:A modernization of Texas’ political disclosure laws could be coming, as the House on Wednesday tentatively approved a bill that would strengthen the state's rules on disclosures for political advertisements on radio and television, and add requirements for political ads on social media websites.

State Rep. Jim Murphy, R-Houston, the author of House Bill 1398, pointed out that the state’s political disclosure laws had not been updated since before the advent of Facebook in 2004.

“We have earned the support of Google, Yahoo, Facebook and AOL, among others,” for the bill, he said.

HB 1398 would require television advertisements endorsed by a candidate to include a full-screen view of the person and a written statement verifying the candidate’s endorsement. It would also require written and audible disclosures for political advertisements on television or the radio. The requirements for online disclosure could be satisfied by including a link to another website with a political disclosure.

The disclosure rules in the bill would not apply to tweets or text messaging, as it excludes advertisements shorter than 200 characters.

The House adopted an amendment offered by state Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, to also include disclosures in political advertisements sent by email.

While the bill was discussed in the House Elections Committee, opponents testified that the rules could be burdensome to some candidates and grassroots organizations, “which would need to spend more resources attempting to ensure that they complied with the new, detailed disclosure laws,” according to a House legislative report. “The same amount of transparency and disclosure could be achieved with a simpler law that was less confusing and less complicated.”

 

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