Public Text Archiving – New Updates to Texas Open Records Laws

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In May 2019, the Texas Legislature passed bills that are aimed at updating the state’s Public Information fail-safe and the Open Meetings Act to the changing technological landscape in the government sector.

Three major bills – SB 943, SB 944, and SB 1640 – were all designed in an effort to restore public’s trust to state’s Open Records Laws which was severely weakened by adverse Texas court decisions that could have assisted public agencies and private entities in keeping critical public information from being disclosed.

With these bills, Texans will be able to access more information regarding the dealings of every function of their government – from law enforcement to education and healthcare – which will result in more robust open government laws in the state.

Public Text Archiving – New Updates to Texas Open Records Laws

Senate Bill 943 – Disclosure of Information Between Public-Private Partnerships

Sen. Kirk Watson, D- Austin, and Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake worked with Texas government stakeholders to pass Senate Bill 943 which is aimed at improving transparency regarding government contracting.

The bill was created to address the discrepancies resulting from the 2015 Texas Supreme Court case, Boeing Co. vs. Paxton, which significantly limited the access of the public to details regarding how the government spends taxpayers money when paying private companies for certain services, while also acknowledging the private companies’ need to protect “any information that could put the companies at a competitive disadvantage.”

According to advocates, the decision allowed the government to hide what they are doing with taxpayers money and what incentives they offer to private entities.

With SB 943, public-private contracting details are now considered public records, including cost, certain communication, and bids, while also continuing to protect trade secrets and proprietary information.

Senate Bill 944 – Access to Public Information on Any Device

Sen. Watson and Rep. Capriglione also worked together to pass the SB 944, which closes what open government advocates call the “custodian loophole.”

According to Kelly Shannon, executive director of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, there are already existing laws in the Texas Open Records Act which made clear that the nature of data dictates whether or not it’s a public record, and not the ownership of the device that holds the data or whether it was created using a government-sanctioned or private email account.

The problem, though, was that enforcement provisions in the act were weakened recently and that the local government code has no specific enforcement provisions. As a result, some government officials and agencies have been unable to respond with TPIA requests in cases where they conducted official business on personal devices or through private email addresses not owned by the government.

SB 944 addresses this issue by making clear that government officials or employees do not own  or have privacy rights over public information,even if it was created, received, or stored on their personal devices. It also requires such employees and officials to surrender privately-held public information, such as those disclosed through mobile channels like text messaging and WhatsApp, among others.

The ability and responsibility to comply with these requirements, therefore, now falls to the government body which grants them the freedom to explore technological solutions that would help them capture and retain public text records on privately-held devices pursuant to a TPIA request.


These recent updates on Texas government transparency laws reinforce why technology is an inevitable driving force in the compliance landscape:Federal, state, and local government offices and agencies must have a robust solution that can capture and record mobile SMS and other mobile channels in a way that complies with the ever-changing FOIA and Sunshine Laws for public text archiving.

With TeleMessage, public agencies and institutions in the U.S. can effectively comply with FOIA text archiving requirements. The TeleMessage Mobile Archiver is an enterprise messaging app that effectively addresses compliance, regulatory, eDiscovery response requirements and reduces risk across the public sector.

TeleMessage’s Mobile Archiver solutions can capture and record text messages, MMS, voice calls, and WhatsApp chats from corporate or BYOD mobile phones. Messages are securely and reliably retained within TeleMessage servers or forwarded to an archiving data storage vendor of your choice.

Our mobile archiving products securely capture content from mobile carriers and mobile devices for a variety of ownership models (BYOD, CYOD, and employer-issued). With our multiple archiving solutions, you can always find the right tools or blend for your requirements:

TeleMessage offers cross-carrier and international mobile text & calls archiving for corporate and BYOD phones. Visit our website today at to learn more about our mobile archiving products.

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