Monday, December 12, 2005

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Attorney General Abbott Unveils Open Government Training Materials For Public Officials

AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today unveiled new mandatory open government training materials to educate state and local public officials about Texas open records and open meetings laws. Abbott highlighted the two videos at the Attorney General’s 2005 Open Government Conference, which is being held Dec. 12-14 to educate public officials and others about all facets of the state’s open government laws.

The materials were developed in compliance with a new state law that gives the Attorney General authority to establish the formal training necessary to ensure that all elected and appointed government officials have a good command of both open records and open meetings laws. The Attorney General’s office enforces the Texas Public Information Act, also known as the open records law.

Media Links

Open Government Training Information
Open Meetings Act Training Video
(running time: approx. 1 hour)
Public Information Act Training Video
(running time: approx. 1 hour)
Open Meetings Act Handbook (PDF)
Public Information Handbook (PDF)

“No longer do public officials have any excuse for not following the state’s open government laws,” Attorney General Abbott said. “This training will teach them what the law requires and that there will be consequences for not following it.”

Copies of the free training video can be requested by calling the Attorney General’s office at (800) 252-8011. In addition, the public can visit the Attorney General’s Web site at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov to: apply for the Attorney General’s approval of an open government training course; view the Open Meetings Act and Public Information Act training videos; and fill out an open government course completion certificate. The new law, long supported by Attorney General Abbott, grew out of his desire to clear up confusion about open records law and change attitudes among government officials as they interact with the public at the local and state levels. The Attorney General’s Open Records Division receives about 11,000 requests per year from government officials seeking guidance about disclosure of records to citizens and media.

Abbott added: “We live in an era in which citizens demand more openness from their government. This law will have a tremendously positive impact on the way government officials perceive their role, not as protectors of public information but as active participants in sharing information with the public.”

The new law goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2006. Officials who are in office before that date have until Jan. 1, 2007, to complete the required training. Officials who are elected or appointed after Jan. 1, 2006, have 90 days within which to complete the required training.