Tribpedia: Public Information Act

The Texas Public Information Act is a state law that generally requires governmental agencies to release or make available for viewing official records upon written request, with some exceptions.

The Texas Attorney General has jurisdiction over how agencies ultimately administer the act, codified in Section 552 of the Government Code, issuing opinions about the types of documents that must remain public and those that are confidential. The agency also settles complaints about whether governmental bodies comply with cost provisions associated with the act.

The law generally requires government agencies, upon receiving a written request for information, to respond to a requestor within 10 days. The agency can release the records or make them available for viewing, notify the requestor that it needs more time to compile the records, or ask the attorney general to block all or part of release based on a legal exception.

Exceptions can include records involving explicitly confidential information, such as a government employee's Social Security number or health insurance coverage. They also can be discretionary, such as a police agency deciding which investigatory details to release during an open investigation. Agencies may redact confidential portions of records, but still must release other portions that don't fit an exception.

Government agencies are allowed, though not necessarily required, to charge requestors for copies of documents -- and for staff time in compiling them. They also may charge for the use of government computers and programmers to extract electronic records, such as databases. The costs can be found in the Texas Administrative Code.

Though the office cannot offer legal advice, the attorney general does maintain a telephone hotline for questions about the act: (512) 478-OPEN (6736). See a sample request.

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