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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Texas bill could affect Dallas Morning News case

The former Texas comptroller refused to include birth dates in the employee payroll records she turned over to the Dallas Morning News per an FOIA request, the Associated Press reported. The current comptroller has taken a similar policy and argued that releasing birth dates creates identity theft problems. Lower courts have ruled that the birth dates are public records. However, a bill that proposes to exempt dates of birth from open records requests could supersede the now-pending Texas Supreme Court case. Reporters routinely use birth dates to "identify state employees during investigative reporting."
Texas lawmakers worried about identity theft are trying to remove state employees' birth dates from public records — a move journalists and open records advocates say is unnecessary and will hamper government oversight.

A proposal by Rep. Helen Giddings, D-DeSoto, that would make the information private is scheduled for a public hearing Tuesday. A Senate version of the bill had a hearing earlier this month.

Those and at least two other bills filed in the Legislature this session could supersede a pending Texas Supreme Court case between The Dallas Morning News and the state comptroller's office.

More here.

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