Texas gets high marks for executive order transparency
AUSTIN, Texas — Texas is among the states that do well at making executive orders accessible to the public, according to a report released Thursday by the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit that advocates for open government.
The state was one of six to receive an “A” in the report, which evaluated how accessible executive orders are by examining how quickly they are posted online and how long they remain online after being issued. The authors also considered whether the orders are posted in non-proprietary computer formats and the searchability of text in the orders. Texas, like every state except Georgia, publishes executive orders online.
Executive orders, the report explains, are “the legal instruments by which governors conduct their duties.” Legally binding, but generally governed by fewer procedural rules than legislation, the orders frequently concern matters like declaring states of emergency, appointing committees and implementing federal programs.
“In addition to what your legislators are doing, it’s extremely important to know what your governor is doing,” said Rebecca Williams, a policy analyst at the Sunlight Foundation. “It’s the next logical step to understanding the legal process in your state.”
The only area of evaluation in which Texas didn’t receive the maximum score was machine readability. While executive orders are available as PDFs with optical character recognition, the study reserved the highest score for states that make executive orders available as HTML or text files, making the content easier to find via search engine.
Gov. Rick Perry has used executive orders sparingly during his tenure, compared with other governors. Since 2009, only Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman has issued fewer than Perry’s nine executive orders.
Perry’s most notable executive order came in 2007, when he made Texas the first state to require that girls receive vaccinations against the sexually transmitted disease human papillomavirus, which can cause cervical cancer. That move drew criticism from conservatives concerned that the vaccination would encourage girls to engage in premarital sex. Perry rescinded the order in 2011.