If you work for a government agency or school district, you need to make sure you’re compliant with Texas Senate Bill 944. Luckily, there are three steps you can take to remain compliant:
Texas Senate Bill 944 is an amendment to the Texas Public Information Act (PIA) and defines methods for adhering to public records laws and expanding government transparency, including how social media communication should be recorded and archived.
The bill clarifies best practices for those responsible for maintaining public records as primarily the responsibility of the officer for public information (PIO) and establishes specific responsibilities for those communicating publicly or privately on social media networks.
Under Texas Senate Bill 944, the PIO will be responsible for obtaining public records and protecting those records from “deterioration, alteration, mutilation, loss, or unlawful removal,” including records being created and/or stored on private devices of other government officials. Records that qualify as public information are not protected by the record holder’s current or previous position, and must be maintained according to the standards of the bill. Those in possession of the records must:
“forward or transfer the public information to the governmental body or a governmental body server to be preserved […]; or preserve the public information in its original form in a backup or archive and on the privately-owned device…”
Those that are maintaining records on private devices are to be considered “temporary custodians” and will be required to turn over public records to the PIO within 10 days of the PIO’s request. This means that officials that have been conducting business (and thus creating public records) on private devices do not own or have rights over the records and should be maintaining the full and unaltered record which will now have to be turned over to the PIO for archiving.
This bill expands the growing movement to maintain government transparency and cracks down on poor public records keeping and the use of digital communication as a way to avoid public record laws.
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