September 10, 2019
AUSTIN – Two legislative aides who worked relentlessly to strengthen the Texas Public Information Act are recipients of this year’s James Madison Award presented by the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas.
Kelsey Erickson, general counsel to Sen. Kirk Watson, and Katy Aldredge, capitol director for Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, will receive the honor for their efforts in passing legislation that makes important repairs and improvements to Texas’ open records law.
The award honors those who demonstrate outstanding commitment to the principles of the First Amendment and open government. It will be presented Sept. 20 at the John Henry Faulk Awards Luncheon during the foundation’s Bernard and Audre Rapoport State Conference in Austin.
Transparency measures that Watson and Capriglione passed this year, assisted by the persistent work of Erickson and Aldredge, ensured that Texans will have access to key information contained in government contracts with private entities.
“Katy Aldredge and Kelsey Erickson made it their personal mission to find a path to reopening access for the general public to see how their taxpayer dollars are being spent,” said Laura Prather, co-chair of the FOI Foundation’s legislative committee.
They were creative thinkers and tirelessly collaborated with stakeholders on the issue, Prather said. “As a result of their behind-the-scenes work, all Texans are better off!”
Passage of the contracting transparency legislation, Senate Bill 943, came in response to 2015 rulings by the Texas Supreme Court blocking much of the public access to government agreements with private companies and non-profits.
James Hemphill, president of the FOI Foundation of Texas and a negotiator for the foundation in the stakeholder meetings for SB 943, said that Erickson and Aldredge provided “refreshing relief and assistance” in an environment where anti-transparency attitudes can be common.
“In addition to their commitment to open government, they displayed incisive analysis and were quick to find paths designed to bring disparate interests together. Their success in increasing government transparency, in situations that frequently were incredibly difficult, is a testament to their tenacity and abilities,” Hemphill said.
Since 1987, the James Madison Award has honored journalists, attorneys, elected officials and vigilant citizens who protect the First Amendment and the public’s right to know.
The FOI Foundation of Texas will also honor Rep. Joe Moody of El Paso with the Open Government Lawmaker of the Year Award. Moody, the speaker pro tempore of the Texas House of Representatives, advocated for additional Public Information Act strengthening legislation and was a key player in successful legislation protecting Texans’ free speech rights.
“His bipartisan, measured approach to both issues showed why lawmakers from both sides of the aisle respect his leadership,” Prather said. “Texas citizens are fortunate to have Joe Moody as a public servant and believer in the First Amendment and government transparency.”
A list of past recipients of the James Madison Award and the Lawmaker of the Year Award and more information on the Sept. 20 state conference can be found at www.foift.org.