Time may be the killer for HSPA’s effort to preserve the publication of budget hearing notices.
The House Local Government Committee assigned S.B. 288 to the House Ways and Means Committee following its 11-2 passage.
This is the final week for committee hearings, but Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, declined to add the bill to the agenda.
S.B. 288 will die, but the language preserving the publication of budget hearing notices can be added to another bill because it was passed by the Senate, said Steve Key, HSPA executive director and general counsel.
Brown’s committee pushed through legislation during the 2014 session that eliminates the notice of budget hearing publication this year. Rep. Dan Leonard, R-Huntington, who was carrying the bill for the state Department of Local Government Finance, authored that bill.
Key believes the Department of Local Government Finance was driven by the desire to eliminate its responsibility to make sure local government agencies properly published the notices.
Now HSPA’s task is to find another bill that can accept the S.B. 288 language as an amendment.
Prior to the current roadblock, S.B. 288 had sailed through the House Local Government Committee. Committee Chairman Rep. John Price, R-Greenwood, joined the bill as a co-sponsor.
Speaking for the bill in addition to Price was the author, Sen. Sue Glick, R-LaGrange; sponsor, Rep. Bruce Borders, R-Jasonville; and co-sponsor, Rep. Sheila Klinker, D-Lafayette.
Rep. Clyde Kersey, R-Terre Haute, is also a sponsor. Sen. Jean Breaux, D-Indianapolis, is the co-author.
Besides HSPA, Debbie Asberry of the League of Women Voters – Indiana, Katrina Hall of Farm Bureau, Indiana resident Barbara Sha Cox, and publisher Chuck Wells of Home News Enterprises testified in favor of the bill.
Opponents who spoke were representatives of the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns and Association of Indiana Counties.
Voting for S.B. 288 were: Price; Borders; Reps. Dennis Zent, R-Angola; Mike Aylesworth, R-Hebron; Robert Cherry, R-Greenfield; Tom Saunders, R-Lewisville; Randy Truitt, R-West Lafayette; Cherrish Pryor, D-Indianapolis; Justin Moed, D-Indianapolis;
Vernon Smith, D-Gary; and Melanie Wright, D-Yorktown.
Voting against S.B. 288 were Reps. Heath VanNatter, R-Kokomo, and Tim Wesco, R-Osceola.
The committee also accepted two amendments to the bill submitted by Borders.
The first amendment restored the bill to its form as it left the Senate Local Government Committee – with a mandatory publication requirement, but a five-year sunset date.
This would prompt HSPA to conduct another statewide survey of the public’s attitudes toward public notice advertising.
The association’s most recent survey was conducted in 2014.
The second amendment added language that was in a House bill from the 2014 session. The bill would change the Access to Public Records Act in two ways:
• It gives the public the power to obtain public records in an electronic format. Currently, a government official can require the citizen to come to the office for a paper copy with corresponding copying charge rather than email the Word document or Excelspreadsheet to the citizen at no cost.
• It gives state and local government officials the ability to charge a search fee if the records request requires more than two hours of searching to locate the records. The first two hours of search are free.
This language was worked out between HSPA and Speaker of the House Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, prior to the 2013 session.
It has been passed by the House twice but ran into a Senate amendment that killed the legislation in the last two sessions.
“While the search fee potential will force people to make more focused records requests, the ability to obtain records in their electronic format is a great step forward,” Key said.
HSPA supported the addition of both amendments.
“There’s something for all the parties – a win-win situation,” Key said. “Citizens would get proposed local government budget and tax numbers delivered to their door and the right to have certain public records emailed to them.
“State and local government units would get some compensation for extensive records searches, an item sought by them for years.
“The negative for local government units is they would continue to spend an average of $166 per unit to alert the public of their intent to levy a statewide total of $5.6 billion in property taxes