Change keeps school financial reports published

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By voice vote, the Indiana Senate agreed to reinstate the publication in local newspapers of annual school financial reports in H.B. 1427.

State Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, offered the amendment to the education bill Tuesday night. She spoke on the four elements of effective public notice – independent third party, archive-able, accessible, and verifiable – and how newspapers, not government websites, covered all the parameters.

The bill’s sponsor, State Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, and State Sen. Susan Glick, R-LaGrange, also spoke in favor of the amendment. Glick talked about the importance of sharing information with taxpayers. No Senator spoke against Rogers’ amendment.

Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann, presiding over the Senate, then called for a voice vote. The “ayes” overwhelmed the “nays.”

Assuming the Senate passes H.B. 1427, author State Rep. Rhonda Rhoads, R-Corydon, will have to decide whether to accept changes to the bill made by the Senate or file a dissent.

A dissent would trigger a conference committee where she could attempt to resurrect her bill’s original intent, which would have replaced the publication requirement with a posting of financial reports on school district websites.

HSPA has argued that Hoosiers expect and want government notices published in local newspapers.

Even when reminded that they as taxpayers pay for the advertisement, 73 percent still said that’s what they wanted.

Asked in the 2004 survey what the result would be if public notices were moved to the Internet, 62 percent of Hoosiers said they would be less likely or much less likely to see public notices.

In another state Senate vote, the bill to establish a search fee for voluminous records requests and give citizens control over the format they could receive electronically stored public documents was defeated, 21-28.

Two senators said the loss wasn’t related to those two parameters but reflected unhappiness expressed by county recorders over an amendment added by H.B. 1175’s sponsor, state Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle.

Holdman’s amendment would allow a person to use a cell phone to take pictures of documents that include that person’s name without having to pay a copying fee to the government unit.

Compromise language had been suggested by the recorders association, so the defeat was unexpected.

Since H.B. 1175 was approved by the House, it is eligible to be added to another bill in a conference committee if the author, state Rep. Bill Friend, R-Macy, decides to attempt to resurrect it.