Straus says shield law vote likely soon

AUSTIN, Texas - A shield law to protect journalists is gaining support this legislative session and may be one of the earliest bills voted on in Texas House, Speaker Joe Straus told news industry executives Monday.

So far the House has not approved any substantive legislation this session, but it's expected to in the next few days. Straus told the Texas Daily Newspaper Association that he suspects that the shield legislation championed by the news industry will be among the initial bills up for a vote.

The proposed shield law, known as the Free Flow of Information Act, would protect journalists in many situations from revealing confidential sources and notes in court. News industry officials say such a law would encourage whistleblowers to come forward and share information that could expose corruption.

Late last week, news industry representatives and the Texas District and County Attorneys' Association held a marathon meeting and reached a compromise on the bill so that prosecutors will no longer oppose it, said Laura Prather, a media law attorney and president of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas.

Prather said the compromise does not water down the bill. She said some of the changes, expected to be in the version of the bill that reaches the full House, clarify existing provisions of the legislation.

"It is a clearer bill that probably functions with more ease now," she said.

Thirty-six states and the District of Columbia have a shield law.