Lawmakers continue to review the effects of a 2015 Texas Supreme Court ruling that allows certain government contracting information to be withheld from public disclosure. Boeing v. Paxton addressed a provision of the Texas Public Information Act (PIA) that allows information to be withheld if it would provide an advantage to a competitor or bidder.
Since the ruling, the case has been cited in more than 2,000 open records letter rulings from the attorney general’s Open Records Division. The 85th Legislature in 2017 considered, but did not enact, several proposals that would have amended the statutory exception to public disclosure that was the basis for the Boeing decision.
The exception to disclosure addressed in Boeing traditionally has been raised by governmental entities to protect their purchasing interests during the ongoing bidding period for a contract. The Supreme Court’s decision allows not only governmental entities but private companies contracting with the government to assert that requested information be withheld if it would provide an advantage to another bidder or competitor, including after a contract has been awarded.
The Legislature in 2017 also considered, but did not enact, proposals stemming from a second Texas Supreme Court ruling, Greater Houston Partnership v. Paxton, which determined when a private entity that receives public funds for economic development is subject to the PIA.
The House Committee on Government Transparency and Operation has a hearing scheduled for Tuesday, March 27 on an interim charge to evaluate the impact of recent court rulings on transparency and accountability in government contracting and procurement.
For more on the effect of the court rulings on the PIA and related legislation, see the recent House Research Organization article, Lawmakers may review effects of court ruling on public information law.
by Janet Elliott