Yesterday, the Texas House of Representatives committee on Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence favorably reported on HB 1799, a bill that would make the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA) law in Texas. The purpose of the proposed law is to ensure that official electronic legal materials, such as the Texas Constitution, statutes, and state agency rules, are authenticated, preserved, and accessible by citizens online. The bill is authored by Rep. Senfronia Thompson, of District 141 in Houston. Now that the bill has been favorably reported out of committee by unanimous vote, it will be placed on the calendar for debate and vote in the Texas House of Representatives.
Already law in twelve states, UELMA provides a technology-neutral, outcomes-based approach to ensuring that online state legal material deemed official will be preserved and will be permanently available to the public in unaltered form. While readers may be aware that the text of the Texas Constitution, Texas statutes, and regulations are available to view online, UELMA would require that the materials be authenticated, preserved, and permanently available to the public. An authentic text is one “whose content has been verified by a government entity to be complete and unaltered when compared to the previous version approved or published by the content originator.” American Association of Law Libraries, State-By-State Report on Authentication of Online Legal Resources (2007). Authentication provides assurances to users that the constitutional provisions, laws, and regulations promulgated on official state websites are in fact the unaltered and verifiable law of the state.