HBA-TYH H.B. 2836 76(R) BILL ANALYSIS Office of House Bill AnalysisH.B. 2836 By: Turner, Sylvester State Affairs 4/7/1999 Introduced BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE Currently, there is no centralized position in the state government to assist members of the public who wish to make a request under the Public Information Act or who feel that their request for information has received an inadequate response. Additionally, there is no centralized position to expedite requests by governmental bodies for a decision regarding exceptions to the Public Information Act. H.B. 2836 creates the position of public information advocate within the Office of the Attorney General. The advocate would be responsible for assisting members of the public with public information requests as well as expediting requests by governmental bodies for decisions regarding exceptions to the Public Information Act. RULEMAKING AUTHORITY It is the opinion of the Office of House Bill Analysis that this bill does not expressly delegate any additional rulemaking authority to a state officer, department, agency, or institution. SECTION BY SECTION ANALYSIS SECTION 1. Amends Subchapter A, Chapter 552, Government Code, by adding Section 552.009, as follows: Sec. 552.009. PUBLIC INFORMATION ADVOCATE WITHIN ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE. (a) Establishes that the position of public information advocate is a position within the office of the attorney general. (b) Requires the advocate on request to assist members of the public who wish to make or who have made requests for public information under this chapter. (c) Requires the attorney general to provide a statewide toll-free number by which members of the public may contact the advocate. Requires each governmental body to post the number at the place that the governmental body is required to post a notice of a meeting under Chapter 551 (Open Meetings). Requires a governmental body that is not subject to Chapter 551 to post the number at a place convenient to the public in or by the administrative offices of the governmental body. Requires a governmental body to post with the toll-free number a statement of the advocate's title and a brief description, to be prescribed by the attorney general, of the advocate's function. (d) Requires the advocate, in addition to generally assisting members of the public with problems and questions that arise under this chapter, to promptly review all requests by a governmental body for a decision by the attorney general under Section 552.301 (Request for Attorney General Decision). Requires the advocate, if in the advocate's opinion all or part of the information requested clearly does not fall within the stated exceptions to required disclosure, to recommend to the appropriate division of the attorney general's office that the request for an opinion should be promptly considered and that the attorney general should promptly issue a brief opinion under Section 552.306 (Rendition of Attorney General Decision; Issuance of Written Opinion) identifying the requested information that clearly is not excepted from required disclosure. Authorizes the attorney general, in relation to the same request for a decision under Section 552.301, to issue a brief expedited decision identifying requested information that clearly is not excepted from required disclosure and issue later a second opinion under Section 552.306 about the remainder of the requested information. (e) Requires the advocate to recommend to the attorney general that a suit for a writ of mandamus be filed under Section 552.321 (Suit for Writ of Mandamus), if, in the opinion of the advocate, a governmental body's refusal to allow access to information requires court action. SECTION 2. Amends Section 552.321, Government Code, to make the section applicable in the situation when a governmental body refuses to supply public information that is not excepted from required disclosure or information that the attorney general has determined is public information that is not excepted from required disclosure. SECTION 3. Emergency clause. Effective date: upon passage.