Public access outlook for 2014


The policy director for Indiana Speaker of the House Brian Bosma said a public access bill is likely for the 2014 state legislative session.

Steve Key, HSPA’s executive director and general counsel, is working with Tyler Campbell, policy director for Bosma, R-Indianapolis, on the potential bill.

In the 2013 Indiana General Assembly, state Rep. Bill Friend, R-Macy, introduced H.B. 1175 at the behest of Bosma.

The House approved the bill 72-27, but it died in the Senate. Controversy erupted over an amendment added by state Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, the bill’s sponsor.

H.B. 1175 contained two main components as it left the House.

The language created a search fee for voluminous records requests, an item sought by Bosma to address concerns raised by state and local government units over the burden of responding to records requests that take hours to process.

The second provision, added at the request of HSPA, would have allowed a records requester to designate whether a record existing in electronic format should be made available in electronic or print format.

Currently, public agencies control whether a record is provided as a print or electronic document.

HSPA’s language exempted county recorder offices from this provision. The association recognizes that recorders’ budgets rely on a statutory $1 copying fee to fund efforts to maintain the official documents filed with the office.

“While HSPA certainly wouldn’t seek the creation of a search fee, we worked with Speaker Bosma to outline a bill that addressed governmental concerns while attempting to limit the burden on citizens seeking to understand the actions of its state and local elected leaders,” Key said.

HSPA greatly supports the provision giving Hoosiers control of the format of records delivered, he said.

“Under the proposal, a reporter could get an Excel spreadsheet in an electronic format so that he or she could analyze and compare the data to other databases without having to physically key in the information as the reporter would need to do if handed a printout of the document,” Key said.

Holdman’s fatal amendment would have required recorders to give citizens permission to use smartphones to capture images of documents they wanted to inspect – circumventing the need to pay a $1 fee for a copy.

Recorders opposed this provision, and the bill died 21-28 in a second floor vote after the first vote ended in a tie.

Campbell couldn’t confirm which state representative would serve as the author of a 2014 version of the public access bill.

While Bosma is the driving force behind the legislation, a House speaker usually doesn’t file bills. Generally, that task falls on a member of the speaker’s caucus.