The following was received today from Sue Kaufman, with the Texas State Genealogical Society:

We are writing to you as a member of the genealogical community of Texas to alert you to a bill being considered by the Texas Legislature. We should have sent this alert out to you sooner. We’ve been so consumed with developing a response and strategy that we’ve neglected to keep you informed. We promise to do a better job of sending you alerts in the future more quickly.

House Bill 3252 by Representative John Zerwas (Fort Bend County) would close Texas birth records for 125 years and Texas death records for 50 years. Under current Texas law, birth and death records now become public information 75 years after a birth and 25 years after a death. Proponents of the bill believe that closing birth and death records for 125 and 50 years will prevent identity theft and fraud.

TSGS is actively opposing this legislation. Last week, President Susan Kaufman, President-Elect John Wylie, Director Randy Whited, and Records Preservation and Access Chair Teri Flack testified before the House Public Health Committee strongly expressing our opinion that increasing these time limits will do nothing to prevent identity theft and that, particularly by closing death records for 50 years, family historians will be prevented from obtaining their family’s health history in a timely manner. We provided background information to enable the members to understand the impact of the bill. A copy of the bill, the written testimony we submitted to the committee, and our written response to questions and issues raised during the hearing may be found at http://cts.vresp.com/c/?TexasStateGenealogic/b4c00fb320/9fa51d13fb/4d9172da33. If you are so inclined, you can watch the hearing at http://cts.vresp.com/c/?TexasStateGenealogic/b4c00fb320/9fa51d13fb/c8950b8b2d.

We know it will take the effort of our entire community to persuade legislators that this bill is unnecessary. We are asking you to write Rep. Zerwas and express your opinion. His email address is john.zerwas@house.state.tx.us. It does not have to be a lengthy point-counterpoint communication. Feel free to use some of the arguments we included in our testimony; however, most legislators dismiss anything that sounds like a form letter. So, it would be counterproductive to simply forward this alert or a copy of our testimony. Rep. Zerwas has already listened to our official testimony. A simple, personally crafted message in your own words will be more effective.

We are also asking you to write to members of the House Public Health Committee, particularly if you live in the district of one of the members. Here’s a link to the committee so you can see who the members are and to find their email addresses: House Public Health Committee members. Be sure to let them know you are writing to them about HB 3252 because of their membership on that committee. Not sure if you live in a member’s district? You can go to Texas Legislature Online at http://cts.vresp.com/c/?TexasStateGenealogic/b4c00fb320/9fa51d13fb/fb0467954e and plug in your address information. It will tell you who your representative and senator are.

Please don’t dawdle. The bill may be voted out of the Public Health Committee as early as Friday. So, the sooner you write the more impact you will have.

Please forward this message to anyone who might be willing to climb aboard this urgent effort. You don’t need to limit it just to your fellow genealogists. Send it to anyone who might be willing to speak up for open government.

Thank you for your support of this effort. We’ll keep you posted on any action taken by the Legislature.

Sue Kaufman
President
Texas State Genealogical Society