No Texts In Texas

Texas State Representative Todd Hunter has introduced legislation that would ban public officials from transmitting electronic messages during any public meeting. That would include text messages, e-mails and tweets. Hunter cites the need for civility and focus as reasons for the bill. I don’t have a problem with that. Although he may have another agenda – avoiding the creation of “public records” in the form of those electronic messages. But that agenda may be misplaced. If he thinks that e-mails and texts sent to and from state officials are public records only if they are sent or received while the official is on the clock, he is wrong. In Ohio, at least, the issue isn’t where or when the message was sent. The question is what is the substance of the message? If it concerns the public business, it’s a public record. That’s what the Ohio Supreme Court reiterated in the 2008 decision in Glasgow v. Jones. And that’s the way it should be. Any other standard would be too easy to work around (not that politicians would ever exploit a loophole or anything). So if Hunter is trying to make public officials more polite, I say more power to him. But if he’s trying to elevate form over substance, I hope he fails.