TPA honors Rep. Hunter with First Amendment award
AUSTIN - Texas Press Association proclaimed Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, a “Friend of the First Amendment" at the TPA Legislative Conference on Feb. 25 in honor of his years of hard work and determination to protect and preserve free speech and government transparency.
In presenting the award, the association released the following statement:
“Rep. Hunter is serving his seventh term in the Texas House of Representatives. He is senior partner at the law firm of Hunter and Handel in Corpus Christi, and he also carries senior-level clout in the Texas House, where he serves as chairman of the powerful Calendars Committee, which determines when and how legislation will be considered. Rep. Hunter also serves as a member of the House committees for Redistricting, for General Investigating and Ethics, for County Affairs, and for the Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence.
“Rep. Hunter is a strong advocate for published public notice and for government transparency in all forms. He was instrumental in the passage of the landmark bill protecting reporter's privilege in the 81st legislative session. At the time, Rep. Hunter was chair of the Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee. Without his requiring the district attorneys to sit down with Texas newspapers to have a discussion about the issues, and without his extraordinary mediation capabilities, neither the meeting nor the bill would have come to pass. He oversaw four different sessions with the district attorneys — one of which lasted for more than 10 hours. This was the third time the bill had been brought before the Legislature in recent history, and without Rep. Hunter, it would not have made it out of the House.
“In the next session, he took on an even bigger issue — one that impacts all citizens in the state of Texas who are sued out of retaliation for speaking out. Rep. Hunter championed the anti-SLAPP statute (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation), which was passed unanimously in both chambers and went into immediate effect. As a result, retaliatory lawsuits are coming to an early end and cases that are dismissed through the anti-SLAPP statute include an award of attorney’s fees. The hope is that the anti-SLAPP law will serve as a deterrent to retaliatory lawsuits even being filed in the future.
“This session, Rep. Hunter has agreed to sponsor a bill that will give newspapers an opportunity to correct mistakes that may have been made and not be liable for exemplary damages once we make those corrections. The bill should greatly reduce the frequency and the cost of First Amendment litigation, giving newspapers a chance to address concerns on the front end and avoid costly lawsuits later.
“Rep. Hunter is also carrying the bill on government officials’ texting about public business during public meetings and the bill to expand the Public Information Act to cover electronic communications and third-party contracts.
“Texas newspapers are fortunate to have a First Amendment and open government champion with the standing, reputation and effectiveness of Rep. Hunter. The Texas Press Association is grateful for his steadfast support of open government and his service to Texas.”