New author takes on civil fine legislation

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Kathy Richardson
Indiana Rep. Kathy Richardson, R-Noblesville

Rep. Kathy Richardson, R-Noblesville, will serve as author of House legislation that would allow a judge to levy a civil fine for deliberate violations of the Open Door Law or Access to Public Records Act, according to Speaker of the House Brian Bosma.

Bosma has served as either a co-author or co-sponsor of the legislation for the past two sessions but will not put his name on bills now that he is speaker.

Richardson, a former Hamilton County clerk of the courts, has been a supporter of transparency in government for years, said Stephen Key, HSPA executive director and general counsel.

“I’ve know Kathy since my days as a reporter at the Noblesville Ledger,” Key said. “I’m confident she’ll do a good job of shepherding this bill through the House.”

Similar to Senate Bill 70, filed this session by Sen. Sue Landske, R-Cedar Lake, the currently unnumbered House bill also will contain two other provisions:

• Local government agencies with e-mail capabilities would be required to give electronic notice of meetings under the Open Door Law if requested to do so by citizens.

• The Indiana Public Access Counselor or a judge would be required to examine unredacted documents when the redaction is challenged by a citizen.

Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Mackle, will seek to add an amendment to S.B. 70 to prohibit a copying fee when a citizen receives a public record through the Internet from a public agency.

Other public access bills

HSPA has registered its opposition to S.B. 84, which would prevent public access to accident reports for 90 days, even though the bill exempts the media from the restriction. The bill was introduced by Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg.

“While we appreciate Sen. Leising’s concern with lawyers who use the records to contact potential clients, the bill addresses the public’s right to inspect and copy documents, not inappropriate behavior,” Key said. “This would set a bad precedent of closing records as a deterrent to bad activities rather than addressing the bad activities directly while keeping public access available.”

In a similar vein, Rep. Phil Hinkle, R-Indianapolis, introduced H.B. 1068, which would make home address information of law enforcement officers confidential in public records.

The concern is that people will post the information on the Internet to encourage people to harass an officer or his or her family.

Both Hinkle and Leising appeared willing to change their original language after hearing HSPA’s concerns.

Sen. Connie Lawson, R-Danville, has a bill that includes an Open Door Law provision allowing aviation boards to meet in secret for board performance training. This is like a provision currently in the law for school boards.

When HSPA discussed S.B. 60 with Lawson, she said the concern raised by the aviation boards was the ability to discuss security issues. Key has prepared a memo for the senator showing that airport security issues already can be discussed by these boards in executive session and that the language in her bill would not be appropriate.

HSPA has suggested an amendment to S.B. 31, authored by Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport. The bill creates databases on taxing jurisdictions, but the language was vague regarding the rights of citizens to access the information.

Head was amenable to language that would clarify that the information would be public records available for inspection and copying.

HSPA also plans to talk to Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette, about S.B. 58, which includes an expansion of the Open Door Law provision allowing executive sessions for certain strategic purposes.

Alting’s language would allow for closed-door sessions to discuss strategy about the sale or lease of a public agency’s property or school consolidation.

Current law allows for discussion when a public agency is trying to buy or lease property from a private entity.