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A lot can happen when you're distracted by presidential politics. The past week offered a few relatively local reminders of why politics matters.
Texas state government can shut down your access to public information — simply by hiring private businesses to do government work that would otherwise be subject to public scrutiny.
What’s supposed to be the virtuous circle of civics — you elect lawmakers, they get to work, you re-evaluate them on that work and then vote again — has been corrupted. It competes with the commercial circle of civics, where elections are paid for by business interests that are rewarded with state contracts that, incidentally, are protected from public scrutiny because of laws passed by those same business-backed officeholders.
You can blame the Texas Supreme Court, if you’d like, for the ruling that exposed what some call a “monstrous loophole” in the state’s public information laws. Or you can blame the lawmakers who wrote those laws.
Either way, as The Texas Tribune’s Jim Malewitz reported, you can’t find out what it cost McAllen taxpayers to hire Enrique Iglesias to sing in a parade, or how many ride-hailing permits Uber got from the city of Houston.
That’s before you even get to the really big contracts that replace entire departments of state government — in child support, health and human services programs, state prisons and data services.It might be your money, but the state doesn’t think it’s any of your business.