Sep 01 2015

Texas Legislature Stresses Importance of Data Collection and Transparency

New laws show how the legislature is paying closer attention to technology to improve it across the state.

During Texas’ 2015 legislative session, Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law 10 bills that expand the capability and reach of the Department of Information Resources (DIR). One of the bills empowers the agency to make an important new hire, while the other forms a collective that improves on data collection and transparency.

According to StateScoop, HB1912 created the statewide data coordinator position. During a July webinar, DIR Director of Technology Planning, Policy and Governance Deborah Hujar said the position originated from a DIR suggestion. “This is actually a recommendation the DIR made to the legislature in its biennial performance report,” Hujar said. “This bill would require the DIR executive director to employ a statewide data coordinator.”

In addition to establishing a more collaborative environment between state agencies, the data coordinator will be tasked with overseeing how that information is managed and protected and will devise best practices for the sake of efficiency in relation to state government’s use of data. In turn, this will force agencies to meet certain expectations. “State agencies will work with the data coordinator to make the statewide data improvement objectives,” Hujar added. Abbott signed another bill that charges a larger group with a similar initiative.

SB1844 founded the Interagency Data Coordination and Transparency Commission. Made up of staff from 10 legislative agencies, the commission will evaluate how data is reported, shared, classified and used in the state. Two DIR staff members will be included, and the commission will be guided by Abbott’s office. The commission, which is scheduled to begin meeting by the end of the year, will also work to eliminate the barrier separating the public from some information, StateScoop reports:

The commission will study how the state can collect and post data from agencies online in a machine-readable, open source format that is easily accessible to the public. The commission must report its findings on the status of the state’s data accessibility to the Legislature by Sept. 1, 2016.

Overall, the creation of the statewide data coordinator position and the Interagency Data Coordination and Transparency Commission demonstrates the state’s enhanced level of awareness about technology from a legislative angle.