Chapter 1: Electronic Government
Authorize State Agencies to Provide Public Information Via the Internet
Texas state law grants state agencies express authority to post information on the Internet only in certain specific cases. A wider latitude in this area would allow state agencies to provide better public service.
The Internet constitutes the most powerful and effective medium for disseminating information in history, and state agencies would be remiss if they did not take every advantage of its power to distribute public information. Many agencies, however, lack express authority in law to publish various items on the Internet, which may discourage their use of the online medium.
Existing state law grants such explicit authority only in some specific cases. For example, all state agencies are authorized to post their rules and regulations and their electronic mail addresses on the Internet. Agencies that receive more than $175 million in biennial appropriations are required to publish certain agency information, including expenditures, on the Internet.
A number of state agencies have specific statutory authority to post certain information on the Internet; the Comptroller’s office, for instance, is specifically required to post the reports of its Texas School Performance Review Division on the Internet, while the Department of Public Safety is authorized to allow the public to renew driver’s licenses and identification cards and to accept fee payments online.
Some agencies have no specific authority regarding the use of the Internet, but are expressly authorized to transmit certain information electronically. The Texas Department of Insurance, for instance, is authorized to establish an electronic database for reports filed with the department and to provide the public with access to this database. The Texas Department of Transportation is authorized to accept electronic reports of railway accidents and unsafe conditions.
Finally, a number of major state agencies, including the Texas Department of Agriculture, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, and the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, have no statutory authority specific to them addressing the use of electronic media.
As a general rule, a state agency has only those powers explicitly or implicitly delegated to it. Texas courts have routinely held, however, that the Legislature has implied its intention that an agency should have whatever power is reasonably necessary to carry out its duties under state law. The Texas Public Information Act can be interpreted to provide implied authority for state agencies to post information on the Internet; the act encourages governmental bodies to explore options to provide the public with electronic access to public information. Nevertheless, the absence of express authority may inhibit agencies from taking full advantage of the Internet.
Texas Government Code §2054.121 should be amended to expressly authorize state agencies to post information on the Internet.
State agencies should have the freedom to post any information on the Internet that they believe would be useful to the public.
The statute could be amended by adding a new subsection (b) to section 2054.121 in the following manner:
§ 2054.121. Required Posting of Information on Internet
(a) Each state agency, other than an institution of higher education, that receives an aggregate amount of appropriations in the General Appropriations Act for a state fiscal biennium that exceeds $175 million shall post the following information during the biennium on a generally accessible Internet site maintained by or for the agency:
an analysis of all agency expenditures during the two preceding state fiscal years that lists each county in the state and states for each county the amount of agency expenditures made in or for the benefit of the county;
if the information required to substantially comply with Subdivision (1) is not available, an analysis that approximates compliance with Subdivision (1) to the greatest possible extent by listing agency expenditures according to geographic regions of the state, to the extent possible, and by each field office of the agency;
a profile of the governing officer or of each member of the governing body of the agency that includes, among other information, the office address of the officer or member;
a listing and description of all contracts with vendors that have a value exceeding $100,000 that the agency has entered into and that are currently being performed or for which performance has not yet begun;
a brief description of the agency’s duties; and
an electronic link to the agency’s rules as published in the electronic version of the Texas Administrative Code and an electronic link to any written procedure of the agency relating to agency hearings that is not contained in the electronic version of the Texas Administrative Code.
(b) All state agencies that maintain a generally accessible Internet site may post on their sites any non-confidential information related to the agencies’ programs, activities or functions.
This recommendation would have no fiscal impact.
 V.T.C.A., Government Code §2001.006(a) and §2054.120(a).
 V.T.C.A., Government Code §2054.121.
 V.T.C.A., Government Code §403.020 and V.T.C.A., Transportation Code §521.103, 521.274, and 521.427(b)(1).
 V.T.C.A., Insurance Code §38.160.
 V.T.C.A., Transportation Code §455.005 (d)(3).
 See City of Sherman v. Public Utility Commission, 643 S.W.2d 681, 686 (Tex. 1983).
 See Public Utility Commission v. GTE-Southwest, Inc., 901 S.W.2d 401, 407 (Tex. 1995).
 V.T.C.A., Government Code §552.272 (d).