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handled 11,000 such requests. These requests show an increase in compliance that is directly related to outreach and enforcement.
Often, non-compliance results from a simple lack of under- standing rather than malicious intent. For this reason, the Texas Attorney General’s Office has worked aggressively to prevent viola- tions of the Texas Public Information Act.
We offer training. We offer videos, handbooks. We have, most im- portantly, an open government hotline. It is toll-free in the State of Texas and is charged with helping to clarify the law and make open government information readily available to any caller. This service includes, as the OPEN Government Act would, an update on where a request is in the system. The Texas open government hotline answers about 10,000 calls a year. There is no question that the addition of a similar system under the proposed OPEN Government Act provides citizens customer service, attention, and access they deserve from their public servants. Our hotline has been a resounding success, from the both the perspective of reques- tors and from governmental entities.
My office also has attorneys that handle citizens’ complaints as well as respond to their questions about the law. These attorneys attempt, with a 99 percent success rate, to mediate compliance with open records regulations. The OPEN Government Act would create a similar system, and Texas’s demonstrated success in re- solving such matters underscores the utility of such a dispute reso- lution function.
Our experience has shown that it requires a few actions by the Attorney General for word to get out that we are serious about en- forcing compliance. I believe that the Office of Special Counsel pro- visions as proposed in your OPEN Government Act will experience the same positive results on the Federal level.
Finally, with regard to outsourcing, Texas has a legal presump- tion that all information collected or assembled or maintained by or for a governmental body by a third party are open to the public. The OPEN Government Act would also extend the availability of government records held by non-governmental parties. Records kept on behalf of Texas governmental bodies remain accessible by request as long as the governmental body has a right of access to the information. Texas law does not allow the government to con- tract away access to records held by its agents.
I personally believe this portion of the policy statement that in- troduces the Texas Public Information Act is instructive. The peo- ple, in delegating their authority, do not give the public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining in- formed so that they may maintain control over the instruments that they have created.
My experience and our State’s experience with openness, its com- mitment to that people have a right to know, not just a need to know, has been a resounding success for 32 years. As Attorney General Abbott noted in his recent letter to you supporting the OPEN Government Act, open government leads inextricably to good government. Openness and accountability, not secrecy and concealment, is what keeps our democracy strong and enduring.
09:04 Nov 08, 2005