Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect the bill heads to the Senate for a vote.
AUSTIN (KXAN) — As the one-year anniversary of the mass shooting in Uvalde approaches, a bill that would end a controversial legal loophole used to block victims and families from seeing important records is the closest its ever been to closing.
The “dead suspect loophole” refers to an exemption in Texas’ public records law that gives police discretion to withhold information in criminal cases that haven’t gone through the court process — even when a suspect dies in police custody.
“There’s no greater need for the people to know the truth then when an interaction with their government leaves one of them dead,” said State Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, at a hearing earlier this month. He filed House Bill 30 and has been pushing for years to close the loophole, which is blocking Uvalde families from getting answers.
“Law enforcement refused to release those [Uvalde] records,” Moody previously said. “And, we all knew very well that they never had to release them, ever, because of the loophole this bill closes.”
On Friday, the Senate Business and Commerce Committee held a last-minute hearing to take up that bill. It was voted out of committee 6-0. The Committee amended the bill to remove a section that allowed misconduct information in police personnel files to be shared, and also removed another section to ensure law enforcement personnel files weren’t made public in information requests.
The bill now goes to a full Senate vote.
It is an issue KXAN has investigated for years.
Moody’s bill, which was filed in previous sessions but went nowhere, gained momentum this time around in the wake of conflicting explanations after Uvalde. Last year, House Speaker Dade Phelan tweeted that it was time to “end the dead suspect loophole for good in 2023” after saying it would be “unconscionable” to use the loophole to block families from getting answers.
“The families, and the public, deserve to know what happened,” Moody previously said. “All of it. Good, bad, and ugly,” Moody previously said.
The Senate has until next Wednesday to consider all bills.