It’s become glancingly rare that you see a birthdate in public records — a loophole in the Texas Public Information Act that can pose problems for both the media and for the average individual.
For the media, of course, the absence of a DOB can make it difficult to accurately identify an individual named in a public record — but for individuals, it can also complicate day-to-day matters like auto loans and home financing.
An appeals court decision in 2010 created the loophole in question, allowing government entities to withhold birthdates when releasing public information.
Now, Rep. Todd Hunter (R- Corpus Christi) has filed Texas House Bill 1655, which would require the state to include birthdates in public records. No one testified against House Bill 1655 in committee hearings, and it overwhelmingly passed the House 127 to 3.
But the bill will die this week unless the Texas Senate votes in the next day or two.
Birthdates in public records are often essential. In their absence, it’s next to impossible to distinguish between individuals with highly common names and can result in serious cases of mistaken identity.
In journalism, where defamation is always a concern, this is very important.
Other institutions need access to birthdates on a regular basis as well for legitimate reasons — such as verifying identities. This sort of information is crucial for personnel executives, credit check firms and financial institutions when it comes to hiring job applicants and many other matters.
And, contrary to popular opinion, stolen identities are generally not the result of DOBs taken from public records. Exponentially more often, identity theft is the result of account numbers or other data getting mined from someone’s trash. In fact, birthdates in public records are an important mechanism to prevent identity theft.
Consider contacting your state senator to urge him to push for an immediate floor vote for HB 1655. To contact the south-central office of Sen. Ted Cruz in San Antonio, call 210-340-2885. To contact the south-central office of Sen. John Cornyn in San Antonio, call 210-224-7485.