HSPA targeting bills focused on Open Door Law, access

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HSPA has less than a dozen bills it’s targeting after legislation has passed the winnowing process of being passed in the chamber where it originated. Following are the bills under our scrutiny:

H.B. 1103 – This is the yearly Department of Natural Resources bill. It includes a provision that would allow DNR to forego the publication in newspapers of notices when it is considering the adoption of rules – replacing that publication with an electronic notification.

This proposal was in last session’s DNR bill, which failed to pass. The author is Rep. Sean Eberhart, R-Shelbyville. The House passed the bill, 90-0. The sponsor is Sen. Sue Glick, R-LaGrange. HSPA will seek to have the provision stricken from the bill.

H.B. 1130 – This bill will require public school boards to provide the public with an opportunity to speak at meetings. The Open Door Law currently only gives citizens the right to observe and record, not participate in meetings of government units.

HSPA did testify in favor of the bill, authored by Rep. Tim O’Brien, R-Evansville, before the Senate Education and Career Development Committee. The House passed the bill, 92-1. The bill’s sponsor is Sen. Jim Buck, R-Kokomo.

Rep. O’Brien said there would be an amendment to the bill before the Senate Committee takes a vote on H.B. 1130.

H.B. 1134 – This education matters bill has gotten a lot of attention because it addresses curriculum issues, such as critical race theory. While the bill has a government transparency component – requiring school districts to post on the Internet a host of information about what is being taught in the classrooms, it also diminishes the ability of citizens to ask for copies of that information from school officials.

A provision changes the Access to Public Records Act to allow school officials to deny a request to inspect or copy the curriculum information if the records requester has access to the materials on a computer. HSPA has been told the rationale was to relieve an expected burden that will be placed on school officials one this material goes online.

HSPA believes the premise is flawed and the language sets a bad precedent to allow public agencies to deflect requests for public records. HSPA has discussed its concern with author Rep. Tony Cook, R-Cicero, and sponsor Sen. Linda Rogers, R-Granger.

Sen. Rogers said the bill will be amended before any vote by the Senate Education and Career Development Committee and that she believes the amendment will remove the section that HSPA opposes.

The House passed the bill, 60-37.

H.B. 1247 – HSPA will support this bill that will increase the amount of information required in the statewide child fatality review committee’s annual report. HSPA talked to bill author Rep. Ryan Lauer, R-Columbus, about the genesis of this legislation. Rep. Lauer wants to collect more data to help legislators shape future policy towards the care of children in need of services and how the state Department of Child Services operates.

The House passed the bill, 90-0. The sponsor is Sen. Jon Ford, R-Terre Haute.

S.B. 83 – Similar to H.B. 1130, this bill would require school boards to afford public comment at their meetings. S.B. 83 includes charter schools in this change to the Open Door Law.

HSPA was asked to help with an amendment to the bill by author Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg. The Senate passed the bill 45-4. HSPA will support this bill in the House. The bill’s sponsor is Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis.

S.B. 117 – This bill would make confidential identifying information about children who are victims of crime. Author Sen. Kyle Walker, R-Indianapolis, met with HSPA and amended the bill in an attempt to address concerns.

HSPA believes the impact of the language changing the Access to Public Records Act still goes beyond the intent to change what police are required to make public under that statute’s “daily log or report” requirement for law enforcement agencies.

The Senate passed the bill, 46-0. The sponsor is Rep. Stephen Bartels, R-Eckerty. HSPA testified about its concern before the House Veterans Affairs and Public Safety Committee, chaired by Rep. Randy Frye, R-Greensburg.

Rep. Frye asked Sen. Walker and Rep. Bartels to meet with HSPA and Accelerate Indiana Municipalities (AIM) on a potential amendment. AIM is the entity pushing for this change to the state’s access law.

S.B. 237 – This bill requires government units to post their meeting agendas 48 hours in advance of public meetings. Current law only requires the agenda, if there is one used, to be posted at the door outside of the meeting room prior to the start of that meeting.

HSPA is supportive of this bill’s intent, but wants to discuss with author Sen, Kevin, Boehnlein, R-Clarksville, a public notice concern the bill raises by making Facebook an eligible location for the placement of public notices.

The Senate passed the bill, 49-0. The sponsor is Rep. Doug Miller, R-Elkhart. There is talk about an amendment to S.B. 237 that may address HSPA’s concern.

S.B. 358 – HSPA is trying to assess the impact of this data protection bill on newspapers ability to maintain information about subscribers or visitors to their websites for purposes of better serving readers and providing advertising/marketing opportunities for local businesses.

Once the impact has been determined, HSPA will be ready to talk to bill author Sen. Liz Brown, R-Fort Wayne, and sponsor Rep. Bob Morris, R-Fort Wayne. The Senate passed S.B. 358, 49-0.

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