Legislative roundup: Public access

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HSPA tracked dozens of bills during the 2011 session of the Indiana General Assembly.

This issue and the June 9 edition of The Indiana Publisher include information on public access-related bills that HSPA worked with.

Publishers and editors, take note of actions local legislators took that were favorable or unfavorable to the positions HSPA adopted on your behalf. 

S.B. 70 contained public access concepts HSPA has been pushing for several sessions, including a civil fine for deliberate violations of the state’s access to information laws, the ability for the Indiana public access counselor to review redacted documents for compliance with the Access to Public Records Act and the ability for citizens to ask for email notification of meetings.

Sen. Sue Landske, R-Cedar Lake, filed S.B. 70 without any prompting by HSPA. The bill was assigned to the Committee on Public Policy, chaired by Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette.

HSPA worked with Landske, Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle; and Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus, on positive amendments to the original bill when Alting decided not to give the bill a hearing. HSPA was told the decision was made after a discussion Alting had with Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski.

The House in 2010 and Senate in 2009 had passed the language in S.B. 70 unanimously. Sen. Beverly Gard, R-Greenfield, was the author in those years. She still supports the legislation.

S.B. 535, authored by Sen. Greg Walker, R-Columbus, was nearly identical to S.B. 70. HSPA and Walker agreed to let S.B. 70 be the bill to push forward, so Walker did not seek a hearing on S.B. 535 from Committee on Local Government chair Sen. Connie Lawson, R-Danville.

S.B. 125, authored by Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, would have made deliberate violations of the state’s public access laws a Class C infraction and prohibited fees for faxing records to citizens.

Holdman and HSPA agreed to attempt to cover Holdman’s issues in S.B. 70, so he did not push for a hearing on S.B. 125 with Committee on Rules and Legislative Procedure chairman Sen. David Long, R-Fort Wayne. Sen. Ron Grooms, R-Jeffersonville, was a co-author on the bill.

H.B. 1487, authored by Rep. Kathy Richardson, R-Noblesville, was the House version of the HSPA-supported bill for civil fines for deliberate violations of public access laws. Richardson filed the bill at the request of Speaker of the House Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, who became the bill’s co-author.

The bill died for lack of a hearing before the Committee on Government and Regulatory Reform, chaired by Rep. Phil Hinkle, R-Indianapolis.

Hinkle apologized to Steve Key, HSPA executive director and general counsel, explaining that he ran out of time because local government reform bills monopolized the hearings. Hinkle pledged to work with HSPA on the legislation in the 2012 session.

S.B. 325, authored by Sen. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City, requires entities that receive payments under local economic development agreements with Indiana casinos to make reports to the Indiana Gaming Commission and attorney general as to how the money is spent.

HSPA supported this bill because the agreements were made when casinos were trying to gain support for local referendums on whether a casino should be built in specific communities, so the public should have a right to know whether casinos offer the promised economic development.

HSPA testified in favor of the bill before the Committee on Public Policy, chaired by Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette. The committee approved the bill 7-0. The Senate then approved the bill 43-7. Senate co-authors are Sens. Mike Delph, R-Carmel; Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn; and Frank Mrvan, D-Hammond.

The House sponsor was Rep. Jud McMillin, R-Brookville. HSPA again testified for the bill before the House Committee on Public Policy, where the bill passed 9-0. Rep. Bill Davis, R-Portland, chairs that committee.

HSPA also spoke with McMillin about a potential amendment prior to its adoption on the House floor. McMillin explained that the amendment merely clarified the scope of what the gaming commission could do to alter an agreement between the casino and entity. The bill passed 87-0 by the House.

Banks concurred with the House amendments, and the Senate approved the motion 48-0. Mrvan spoke strongly for the passage of the bill during the concurrence debate.

S.B. 472, authored by Mrvan, would have given the Indiana Gaming Commission oversight of local economic development agreements between casinos and non-governmental entities.

The bill died for lack of a hearing before the Committee on Public Policy, chaired by Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette. HSPA would have supported this concept, which was supplanted by S.B. 325.

H.B. 1304, authored by Rep. Bill Friend, R-Macy, originally would have allowed government employees to deny access to records when requested in person if the record could have been found online by the requester. Rep. Mike Karickhoff, R-Kokomo, was a co-author. HSPA opposed this concept in committee and Friend quickly understood that the bill was flawed.

During the House Commit­tee on Government and Reg­­u­latory Reform hearing, chaired by Rep. Phil Hinkle, R-Indianapolis, Reps. Scott Reske, D-Pendleton; and Mara Candelaria Reardon, D-Hammond, blasted the concept. To give Friend an opportunity to fix the bill, the chairman held the bill for another meeting.

In the interim, Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus, put together an amendment that Friend accepted that changed the bill to one that allowed a citizen to select in what medium the record would be delivered – email, fax or paper.

With the bill changed, the House committee approved it 11-2. Rep. Shelli VanDenburgh, D-Indianapolis, became a co-author after the language was changed to be pro-citizen access.

However, the bill died in the wake of the House Democratic walkout when time ran out before it could be called for a floor vote.

H.B. 1004, authored by Rep. Eric Turner, R-Cicero, requires the state auditor to post on the Indiana transparency website a database of state expenditures and fund balances and property owned by the state. HSPA supports this concept.

HSPA questioned information that was going to be kept off the site but received assurances from Erin Sheridan of the auditor’s office that the information would be still available for copying and inspection, just not posted on the website. Turner was sympathetic to HSPA’s concern.

The House passed the bill 98-0 after it emerged from the Committee on Ways and Means. Co-authors are Reps. Peggy Welch, D-Bloomington; Cindy Noe, R-Indianapolis; and Wendy McNamara, R-Indianapolis.

The Senate passed it 49-1 after it received approval in the Committee on Tax and Fiscal Policy, chaired by the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Monticello.

HSPA testified in favor of the bill in committee.

The co-authors are Sens. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville; Travis Holdman, R-Markle; Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago; and Mike Delph, R-Carmel.

H.B. 1001, authored by Rep. Jeff Espich, R-Uniondale, is the budget bill. During floor debate, a successful amendment was suggested that provided for the state auditor to post on the Internet information concerning state revenues, expenditures and fund balances except for state universities. HSPA supports the state auditor’s “transparency portal.”

The bill passed the House 60-37. Sponsor of the budget bill is Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville. Co-sponsor is Sen. John Broden, D-South Bend. The Senate approved the budget bill 36-14.

H.B. 1001 went to conference committee, whose report was approved by the Senate 37-13 and the House 59-39.

Gov. Mitch Daniels signed it May 10.

S.B. 350, authored by Sen. John Broden, D-South Bend, would have required the state auditor to post expenditure records of state agencies and job creation information by the Indiana Economic Development Corp. HSPA supported the initiative.

The bill died for lack of a hearing before the Committee on Commerce and Economic Development, chaired by Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis.

Co-authors of the bill were Sens. Jim Arnold, D-LaPorte; Jean Breaux, D-Indianapolis; Lindel Hume, D-Princeton; Tim Lanane, D-Anderson; Frank Mrvan, D-Hammond; Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago; Earline Rogers, D-Gary; Vi Simpson, D-Bloomington; Tim Skinner, D-Terre Haute; Karen Tallian, D-Portage; Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis; and Richard Young, D-Milltown.

S.B. 58, authored by Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette, would have expanded the list of subjects that could be discussed in an executive session to include the sale of property and school consolidation. HSPA opposed the bill.

The bill died when Alting decided not to give his bill a hearing in the Senate Committee on Local Government, which he chairs. Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, was a co-author.

S.B. 84, authored by Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg, would have made accident reports secret from the public but not the press for 90 days. HSPA opposed this concept.

The bill passed on a 5-3 vote by the Committee on Insurance and Financial Institutions, chaired by Sen. Allen Paul, R-Richmond. The Indiana State Police also opposed this proposed legislation.

The bill’s co-authors were Sens. John Waterman, R-Shelburn, and Brent Steele, R-Bedford.

The bill was reassigned to the Committee on Appropri­ations, chaired by Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville. HSPA informed Kenley of its objection to the bill, as did the Indiana State Police. The bill died when Kenley declined to give it a hearing.

H.B. 1068, authored by Rep. Phil Hinkle, R-Indianapolis, would have made confidential the home address, personal telephone number and personal email address of a public safety officer contained in the records of the public agency that employs the officer. It also made posting such information on the Internet a crime, under the premise that it could place officers and their families in danger.

HSPA worked with Hinkle, Leo Blackwell of the Fraternal Order of Police, the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns, and the Association of Indiana Counties to narrow the scope of the records made secret.

The House passed the bill 92-0 after it was approved 9-0 by the Committee on Veterans Affairs and Public Safety, chaired by Rep. Bruce Borders, R-Jasonville. HSPA testified on the bill in committee.

Co-authors were Reps. Sheila Klinker, D-Lafayette, Randy Frye, R-Indianapolis; and Charles Moseley, D-Portage.

The bill died 4-5 in the Senate Committee on Corrections, Criminal, and Civil Matters, chaired by Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford. Questions were raised about First Amendment implications and the scope of public officials that should be included in the bill.

The sponsor of the bill was Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis.

S.B. 80, authored by Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis, requires that election material related to provisional ballots be made available for copying and inspection under the Access to Public Records Act in the same manner as other election material. HSPA supports this language and testified for the bill at its Senate and House committee hearings.

The Senate approved the bill 49-0 after it emerged from the Committee on Elections, chaired by Sen. Sue Landske, R-Cedar Lake. Co-authors are Sens. John Broden, D-South Bend; Mike Delph, R-Carmel; and Tim Lanane, D-Anderson.

The House approved the bill 93-1 without any changes after it passed in the Committee on Elections and Apportionment, chaired by Rep. Eric Koch, R-Bedford. Rep. Kathy Richardson, R-Noblesville, was the bill’s sponsor.

S.B. 60, authored by Sen. Connie Lawson, R-Danville, concerns local government issues. HSPA expressed concern with a provision that would allow airport boards to have an executive session for training by an outside consultant, an exception that currently only school boards can invoke.

Lawson agreed to limit use of the provision by airport boards to only once a year.

The bill passed in the Senate 48-0 after it gained approval in the Senate Committee on Local Government, chaired by Sen. Lawson.

Co-authors are Sen. Jim Arnold, D-LaPorte; Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago; and Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville.

The House passed it 74-17, although there was Republican caucus discussion on whether the Open Door Law change should remain in the bill. Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany, considered calling down a floor amendment to delete the language along with the school board exception for training. Apparently, the caucus persuaded Clere not to offer the amendment.

This occurred after the bill gained approval in the House Committee on Local Government, chaired by Rep. Phil Hinkle, R-Indianapolis.

Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valpar­aiso, was the House sponsor.

Sen. Lawson filed a dissent, but the conference committee report gained approval in the Senate 41-9 and the House 59-36.

S.B. 582, authored by Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage, concerns foreclosure actions but includes a provision making information about debtors’ addresses, email addresses and telephone numbers submitted by banks along with the debtors’ financial information confidential.

It passed the Senate 50-0 after being approved by the Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Richard Bray, R-Martinsville, who also became a co-author. The other co-author is Sen. Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago.

It passed the House 89-0 after approval in the Committee on Financial Institutions, chaired by Rep. Woody Burton, R-Whiteland, who also is the bill’s sponsor. The co-sponsor was Rep. Gail Riecken, D-Evansville.

Tallian concurred on the House changes, and the Senate voted in favor of that motion 47-1.

H.B. 1079, authored by Rep. Cindy Noe, R-Indianapolis, would have provided that a veteran’s discharge record recorded in a county recorder’s office is considered a public record if the veteran’s Social Security number has been redacted. HSPA supported this language.

The House passed the bill 99-0 after it was approved 10-0 by the Committee on Veterans Affairs and Public Safety, chaired by Rep. Bruce Borders, R-Jasonville. HSPA testified in favor of the bill in both its House and Senate committee hearings. Co-authors were Reps. Phil Hinkle, R-Indianapolis; and Bob Morris, R-Fort Wayne.

The bill died for lack of a vote in the Senate Committee on Local Government, although the bill was discussed. Sen. Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville, raised concerns about privacy for veterans.

Sponsor of H.B. 1079 was Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis. Co-sponsor was Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel.

S.B. 537, authored by Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, establishes an Indiana state museum and historic sites corporation to operate those sites. HSPA asked Merritt to consider an amendment clarifying that the Access to Public Records Act would apply to the corporation.

Merritt agreed, and the amendment gained approval during the bill’s hearing before the Committee on Appointments and Claims, chaired by Sen. Joe Zakas, R-Granger. Afterward, the Senate passed the bill 41-9.

Co-authors are Sens. Tom Wyss, R-Fort Wayne; Tim Lanane, D-Anderson; and Jim Arnold, D-LaPorte.

The House approved the bill 96-0 after approval by the Committee on Natural Resources. Rep. Tom Saun­ders, R-Lewisville, was the House sponsor.

Merritt filed a dissent, which led to a conference committee report that was approved by the Senate 47-2 and the House 92-2.

S.B. 549, authored by Sen. Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville, establishes the Indiana public retirement system to administer and manage the state’s pension funds. HSPA was concerned about whether the state’s public access laws would apply to the new entity. Boots said the state’s attorneys confirmed that was the case.

The Senate passed the bill 48-1 after it gained approval in the Committee on Pensions and Labor, chaired by Sen. Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville.

The co-authors are Sens. Jim Buck; R-Kokomo; Greg Walker, R-Columbus; and Michael Young, R-Indianapolis.

The House passed the bill 90-7 with no amendments after its approval by the Committee on Employment, Labor and Pensions, chaired by Rep. Doug Gutwein, R-Francesville. The sponsor was Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel Co-sponsor was Rep. Sue Ellspermann, R-Ferdinand.

H.B. 1379, authored by Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Lizton, would make information about money going into the state retirement funds more transparent. HSPA favors this concept, which Thompson has filed in past session to no avail.

The bill died for lack of a hearing before the House Committee on Employment, Labor and Pensions, chaired by Rep. Doug Gutwein, R-Francesville.

S.B. 71, authored by Sen. Beverly Gard, R-Greenfield, established procedures for the Department of Natural Resources to approve a carbon dioxide transmission line.

HSPA questioned the process for reviewing confidentiality requests but was assured by the DNR that requests are screened before any approval of a request for confidentiality.

The Senate approved the bill 39-10 after it was passed out of the Committee on Energy and Environmental Affairs, chaired by Sen. Beverly Gard, R-Greenfield. Co-authors were Sens. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, and Lindel Hume, D-Princeton.

House sponsor is Rep. Sean Eberhart, R-Shelbyville. The bill gained approval in the Committee on Natural Resources, chaired by Eber­hart. Co-sponsors are Reps. Kreg Battles, D-Vincennes; and Eric Koch, R-Bedford. The House then approved the bill 72-24.

Gard filed a concurrence motion, which was approved by the Senate 43-7.

S.B. 31, authored by Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport, concerned option taxes for counties, cities and towns. It included a provision for a database of taxing unit boundaries. HSPA wrote an amendment, which Head agreed to consider, that would clarify that the database would be available for inspection and copying by citizens. The bill died though when Head decided to withdraw the bill from legislative consideration.

H.B. 1211, authored by Rep. Eric Turner, R-Cicero, originally would allow for the expungement of certain misdemeanor or felony convictions. HSPA opposes this concept of closing court records.

HSPA was prepared to testify against the bill in its hearing before the House Committee on Courts and Criminal Code, chaired by Rep. Greg Steuerwald, R-Danville.

The committee amended the bill to have a summer interim committee look at the question of expungement. Co-sponsors are Rep. Bill Crawford, D-Indianapolis; Milo Smith, R-Columbus; and Matt Ubelhor, R-Bloomfield.

The Senate Committee on Corrections, Criminal, and Civil Matters, chaired by the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, approved the bill.

On the Senate floor, Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, successfully amended the bill back into expungement language. Taylor and Sens. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, and Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago, are co-sponsors.

The Senate passed the amended bill 45-5.

Turner decided to concur with the House changes and, that motion passed in the House 74-14.

S.B. 561, authored by Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, was the comprehensive sentencing reform bill. During its hearing before the Committee on Corrections, Criminal, and Civil Matters, chaired by Steele, an amendment adding language that would close off certain arrest and conviction records was added. HSPA opposes the closing of court records.

The Senate passed the bill 46-3. Co-authors of the bill include Sens. Richard Bray, R-Martinsville; Lindel Hume, D-Princeton; Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso; Randy Head, R-Logansport; Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis.

The sponsor of the bill was Rep. Ralph Foley, R-Martins­ville. HSPA testified against the court records-sealing language during the bill’s hearing before the Committee on Courts and Criminal Code, chaired by Rep. Greg Steuerwald, R-Danville, who was the co-sponsor. The bill died without a vote in that committee.

S.B. 142, authored by Sen. Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago, would have allowed a sentencing court to expunge the records of certain felony and misdemeanor convictions. HSPA opposes the closing of court records.

The bill died for lack of a hearing before the Committee on the Judiciary, chaired by Sen. Richard Bray, R-Martinsville.

S.B. 393, authored by Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, would have allowed expungement of misdemeanor and felony convictions. HSPA opposes the closing of arrest records.

The bill died for lack of a hearing before the Committee on Corrections, Criminal, and Civil Matters, chaired by Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford.

S.B. 392, authored by Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, would have allowed additional situations in which a court may expunge arrest records. HSPA opposes the closing of arrest records.

The bill died for lack of a hearing before the Committee on Corrections, Criminal, and Civil Matters, chaired by Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford.

S.B. 407, authored by Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, would have allowed for expungement of certain arrest records. HSPA opposes the closing of arrest records.

The bill died for lack of a hearing before the Committee on Corrections, Criminal, and Civil Matters, chaired by Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford.

H.B. 1289, authored by Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus, would have allowed for expungement of certain felony convictions. HSPA opposes the closing a court records.

The bill died for lack of hearing in the House Committee on Courts and Criminal Code, chaired by Rep. Greg Steuerwald, R-Danville.

H.B. 1259, authored by Rep. Bob Morris, R-Fort Wayne, would have required county political chairmen to submit to county election boards names and addresses of precinct committeemen and vice committeemen.

HSPA expressed its concern with confidentiality language that would hamper newsgathering efforts. Morris accepted a suggested amendment from HSPA to address the issue.

The bill died for lack of a hearing in the House Committee on Elections and Apportionment, chaired by Rep. Eric Koch, R-Bedford.

H.B. 1438, authored by Rep. Bruce Borders, R-Jasonville, concerned a national compact for sharing criminal information. HSPA asked about the bill’s impact on criminal history releases. Borders agreed to check on the question with the Indiana State Police, but it became moot when the bill died for lack of a hearing before the House Committee on Interstate and International Cooperation, chaired by Rep. Tom Knollman, R-North Liberty.

H.B. 1453, authored by Rep. David Yarde II, R-Garrett, would have created a dealer services division in the Indiana secretary of state’s office. HSPA raised a concern with copy fee language inconsistent with the Access to Public Records Act. Yarde worked with HSPA to craft an amendment to fix the problem.

Yarde successfully inserted the amendment during the bill’s hearing before the House Committee on Roads and Transportation, chaired by Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso.

The bill died on the House floor with a 46-52 vote.

H.B. 1459, authored by Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, involved a system of counting state inmates for U.S. Census purposes.

HSPA raised a concern over a provision making inmates’ last residential addresses secret. Brown agreed to amend the language if the Department of Correction approved with it. DOC attorney Tim Brown signed off on the HSPA-suggested change.

The bill died for lack of a hearing before the House Committee on Elections and Apportionment, chaired by Rep. Eric Koch, R-Bedford.