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June 12, 1998     (512) 463-0300

SENATE PUBLIC INFORMATION COMMITTEE MEETS IN FORT WORTH

FORT WORTH - The Senate Interim Committee on Public Information held a public hearing on Thursday, June 11, in the Fort Worth City Council Chambers. Members of the committee included Senators Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio serving as Chair, John Carona of Dallas, Ken Armbrister of Victoria, Eliot Shapleigh of El Paso, and John Whitmire of Houston. Local Fort Worth State Senator Mike Moncrief also attended the hearing. The committee is traveling around the state conducting hearings regarding the Texas Public Information Act, formerly known as the Open Records and Open Meetings Act.

The well-attended hearing began with welcome remarks from Fort Worth City Councilperson Jeff Wentworth. Jeremy Hallbright, president and general manager of the Dallas Morning News, testified representing all Texas newspapers involved in the ongoing lawsuit regarding Senate Bill 1069. The objection that journalists have to the legislation is the restrictions that it places on access to motor vehicle accident records. The Chair of the Texas Judicial Council testified on the difficulty small courts and circuit courts have due to lack of facilities and staff referring to the 10- day time line for complying to requests when large geographic areas are involved.

Others witnesses testifying were Dr. Charles Davis, a professor at Southern Methodist University (SMU), who offered his expertise in the area of Freedom of Information. Frank Sterile, executive director of the Texas Municipal League, Susan Horton, general counsel of Texas Municipal League, and Paul Watler, an attorney from Jenkins and Gilchrist, also testified.

The committee will gather its findings and presents itthem in a final report to the 76th Legislature which convenes in January of next year.

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