Public access bill dies on last day


A public access bill that the Hoosier State Press Association worked on with Speaker of the House Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, for two years died on the final day of the 2014 General Assembly session.

House and Senate Republicans couldn’t reach agreement on a conference committee report for H.B. 1306, authored by State Rep. Bill Friend, R-Macy. The dispute centered on an amendment added by the sponsor, State Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, that had nothing to do with the original language of the bill.

The bill contained two main provisions:

• It would have given the public the right to request emailed copies of government records that exist electronically. Currently, a government agency can require a citizen to drive to its office for a paper copy of an electronic document. HSPA asked Bosma to include this provision.

• The other provision is one Bosma championed to be fair to state and local government agencies when faced with record requests that involve excessive staff time to fulfill.

The “voluminous records” provision would allow a public agency to charge a fee when the search enters its third hour. The two-hour free search threshold matches the one in the federal Freedom of Information Act.

The fee is the cheaper of the hourly rate of the public employee conducting the search or $20 an hour. This cap will prevent agencies from handing over record-search duties to attorneys, who could charge $100 or more an hour.

Given the fact that several states allow a search fee from the first second, HSPA believes the language in H.B. 1306 balanced the concern of government officials without placing a chilling effect on citizens seeking information.

Holdman’s amendment would have allowed a person to use a cell phone to take a photo of a record in county recorders’ offices – if that record included the person’s name – without having to pay a copying fee.

But House Republicans did not agree with that provision. Friend said they considered it too restrictive for the public.

The deadlock killed the bill that had previously passed both the House and Senate.