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13f Pg Solution a Pro-Faith Frlidak. prep ce I iciigli I 1111111 \(iorPolmilltirli t. ON lir\( [email protected] YES! I want to support an organization that believes as I do; that decisions about reproduction are sacred and are between God and me. Please send additional information Count me in as a member I want to join your action team, I have included my e-mail or fax below. I am enclosing a tax-deductible gift of $ Your Name Address City St Zip Phone Fax E-mail address Please make check payable to RCRC -TX. Clip this reply form and send it along with your tax-deductible donation to: Religious Coalition -Texas P.O. Box 3934, Austin, TX 78764-3934 Abortion is a 131011 Ws pa woman and her God. Our mutual funds are liar people like you who want to invest in their future .,. and make a difference. Domini Social Equity Rife’ offers growth opportunities through a portfolio of stockssetecled for their social and environmental performance Domini Social Bond Fund’ . provides thersification While suppoirting homeowners and small business owners in struggling communities.. Domini Money Market Accounr offers safety and ilquickty through FDIC-insured deposits that help promote community. development.. Reese obtain a current prospectus for more complete information including risks, tees_ and expenses, by cathmg 1-600-530-5321 or online at . Do mini SOCIAL INVESIIIIVERITS rke Way kid InVeStIllatter5 Visit www.dominixorn or Call us at 1-800-530-5321 Ike Wei Suit Emit, Pad ate tie Wel Setae OW bad re MOM te swig fate ad ere out leered. lee art lase meet fie hake SAM bed feets uteratilt Maw* Makers art he afed awry rater relit Asti Um tie Fona hardatals. TMe liski Suitt fad creselly kits it arge pereestaie el its WI* le serlaawiriell mil. tip Wads et Meg arrest roe Mese searitla art rem Rs rimiest lie, Midi rely kraut tie fears mire Ity maim it to reforest at awe literal Mt IESheatiese Union of paid advertisement Editorial, continued from page 3 all former state legislators who were benefiting from lifetime health care on the public health insurance plan. We thought this information was clearly public. After all, these are former elected officials participating in a statefunded program. ERS officials disagreed and decided to stonewall. ERS claimed that gathering the information we requested would cost us $5,180. At the same time, the agency asserted that the records we asked for were private and thus exempt from the open records law. So, before making us pay, ERS officials submitted the case to the Attorney General’s office for a ruling on whether the documents were public. This made sense. Why would we fork over $5,000 for information that might never be available? Little did we know we had unwittingly stepped into a bait and switch. In April, ERS withdrew its request for an AG ruling. Nobody ever informed us that our records request was no longer in play. ERS later claimed that because we had never indicated our willingness to pay the $5,180 that it wasn’t obligated to continue the process. This, we subsequently learned, was a violation of the rules. ERS had mixed two separate clauses of the Texas Open Records Act, an error for which the Building and Procurement Commission, which oversees state billing procedures, later chastised ERS. For the next six months, we wrestled with ERS. The agency continued to insist that we were asking for confidential material, such as health insurance enrollment forms, that it couldn’t release. We repeatedly pointed out that we simply wanted the list of names, not private medical records. After three more open records requests and another protracted battle before the AG’s office, we lost. Attorney General Greg Abbott, who takes pride in portraying himself as a great defender of the public’s right to know, ruled against us. But delays and obstruction apparently were not enough for the ERS to safeguard its secretive ways. In May, the legislature passed House Bill 2359, an omnibus ERS measure. It ensures the information we sought is forever lost behind a curtain of confidentiality. In Senate committee, a stealth amendment was tucked into this massive legislation. The provision allows ERS to ignore any open records request involving its benefits programs. Nor is the agency required any longer to seek an opinion from the AG’s office. As of September 1, ERS can literally toss such open records requests into the trash. ERS argues that this law doesn’t shield documents but simply saves the agency the hassle of obtaining an AG opinion about clearly private records. Lucky them. But what about the public? The privacy of ERS’s clients must be balanced against the public’s right to know. Many of the records ERS maintains are clearly confidential. We don’t care about Gov. Rick Perry’s dental x-rays. But exempting the entire system from public scrutiny is continued on page 26 12/5/03 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 17