We had thought that the end of the legislative session would bring at least a short cool-down period where we could catch our collective breath before moving forward. No chance of that. TSLAC staff have pivoted quickly from the session to implementing the provisions passed by the 86th Legislature as they pertain to our agency.
Here is a sample of items from our post-session in-basket:
• Agency General Counsel – The Legislature gave us funds and authority to hire a General Counsel and the position is currently open. If you know any lawyers with experience in state government, especially with Public Information Act requests and contract management, send them our way!
• New records storage space – We asked the Legislature for short-term and long-term solutions to the acute shortage of space for records storage. The Supplemental Appropriations Bill (SB 500) provided $4.4 million for the short-term solution of retrofitting 20,000 square feet of space in a state-owned building in Southeast Austin to allow for 60,000 cubic feet of storage. This will allow TSLAC to continue to be a solution for state agency records storage for another five years. We are considering options to get the renovation done as quickly as possible.
• Records storage study – And as for the long-term solution, the Legislature did not approve our funding request to expand the State Records Center on Shoal Creek and allow a 20 to 25-year solution to archives and records storage. However, the Legislature did direct TSLAC to study alternatives for storage outside the downtown Austin area. We are working with the Texas Facilities Commission to complete that report which is due December 1.
• Salary increases – We received an additional $200,000 per year for targeted increases for specific positions working below the median of their state salary range. We are working on a total TSLAC compensation plan to present to our Commission at their August 12 meeting.
• Construction grants – Our budget included two riders for library projects in two local areas: $750,000 for a project in Arlington and $1.9 million for construction projects in the Rio Grande Valley region. We are working with the sponsors of those riders to determine their intentions for those funds.
• Legislative records – Two separate bills – HB 1962 (our Sunset bill) and HB 4181 – contain changes in how legislative records are managed. Both bills shift the ownership of legislative records from TSLAC to the Legislative Reference Library. Because HB 4181 was effective immediately, TSLAC staff are working with the Legislative Reference Library to implement these provisions in ways that have the least impact on researchers and the public.
• Advertising services – Our Sunset bill, HB 1962, gives TSLAC the authority to advertise services, which will be especially important for our Talking Book Program, an extremely valuable service which currently reaches only about 4% of the eligible population statewide.
• Changes in local records management – Our Sunset bill directs TSLAC to make a couple of small but important change regarding local records management. Local governments will be required only to indicate compliance with minimum retention schedules for local records. Also, Regional Historical Records Depositories (RHRDs) can now petition to transfer local records to their ownership.
Implementing these and other changes brought by the 86th Legislature will occupy TSLAC’s work for the coming months. We are grateful to the Legislature for reauthorizing TSLAC to continue in operation for another 12 years and the Commission and the dedicated TSLAC staff look forward to ensuring that Texans have the information they need to lead informed and productive lives.