General Assembly legislative topics to watch in 2015


State Sen. Sue Glick, R-LaGrange, plans to file a bill in the 2015 General Assembly to re-instate the requirement that local government units publish a notice of budget hearing that includes the unit’s proposed budget and estimated tax rate.

H.E.A. 1266 last year placed a sunset on the requirement that local government agencies publish the budget as part of the notice of the budget hearing. There will be no such requirement this fall unless the legislature reverses field during the upcoming session.

The change was championed by the state Department of Local Government Finance. Publication in local newspapers will be replaced by posting on the finance department website.

The Department of Local Government Finance Gateway website last year averaged 2,258 unique visitors a week (based on 29,349 over six months). Divide that by 92 counties and the average is 24.5 per county. And this doesn’t take into account how many of these unique visitors are county officials checking to see if the information posted was correct.

Meanwhile, 79 percent of adult Hoosiers read a daily, Sunday or weekly newspaper each week. That’s 3.8 million adults each week (based on a 2014 American Opinion Research poll and census data). Divided by 92 counties, that’s 41,704 per county. (Obviously, numbers per county will vary based on population, but the same would hold true for unique visitors to the Department of Local Government Finance website.)

Steve Key, executive director and general counsel of HSPA, asks: Which process puts the information in more Hoosiers’ hands?

Indiana’s League of Women Voters have agreed to support HSPA’s effort to preserve the budget notice.

HSPA will also be involved in other legislative efforts in 2015.

Electronic copies and voluminous search fees

State Rep. Bill Friend, R-Macy, has filed a change in the Access to Public Records Act in the last two sessions for Speaker of the House Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis. HSPA worked with Bosma to develop it.

It would make two changes to the access law:

• It gives power to citizens to choose whether a public record kept in electronic format should be produced in electronic or paper format when they request it. Current law allows public officials to reject requests that records be emailed and forces citizen to drive to a public agency’s office and pay a copy fee for a hard copy.

• It allows public agencies to charge a fee if a records request search takes more than two hours to accomplish. The law would places limits on the amount that can be charged.

Police investigatory records change

HSPA is working with the Indiana State Police to craft a clarification to the “investigatory records” exception.

The association wants the law to make clear that disclosable public records should still be available for copying and inspection even if they have been collected by law enforcement as part of an investigation into wrongdoing by a public employee or person doing business with a public agency.