Transparency issues log gains, losses at Statehouse

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The 2022 Indiana General Assembly actions concerning government transparency contained a little good and a little bad. Hoosiers will now have the right to speak on items during school board meetings under the Open Door Law, but police will be prohibited from identifying juvenile crime victims in the “daily log or report” under the Access to Public Records Act.

Following are the bills HSPA flagged relating to public access, First Amendment, taxes, advertising and other miscellaneous categories:

H.B. 1130 – This is the right to comment at public meeting bill that emerged from the House. There were three filed, but H.B. 1130 author Rep. Tim O’Brien, R-Evansville, said there was a decision made to move his bill, rather than H.B. 1080, authored by Rep. David Abbott, R-Rome City, or H.B. 1290, authored by Rep. Ryan Lauer, R-Columbus.

O’Brien’s bill, which only covered school board meetings, was approved by the House Government and Regulatory Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Doug Miller, R-Elkhart, 11-0, and by the House, 92-1.

HSPA testified on the bill during its Senate Education and Career Development Committee hearing, chaired by Sen. Jeff Raatz, R-Richmond. HSPA pointed out the bill did not include charter schools. HSPA also pointed out that the language didn’t tie the right to comment to specific agenda items, which would open the door for a school board to hold comments until the end of a meeting after final action had been taken.

The Senate Education Committee did approve the bill, but added a three-minute limit per person on public comment. The vote was 10-1. Sen. Jim Buck, R-Kokomo, was the bill’s sponsor.

A second reading amendment by Sen. Buck was approved. The Senate passed the bill, 34-11. O’Brien concurred and the House approved that motion, 91-1.

S.B. 83 – This was the Senate bill giving citizens the right to speak at school board meetings under the Open Door Law. It was authored by Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg. The bill was filed with a drafting error, making code citation references to the Access to Public Records Act, rather than the Open Door law. HSPA brought the error to Sen. Leising’s attention and she fixed the error with an amendment during the bill’s hearing before the Senate Education and Career Development Committee hearing, chaired by Sen. Jeff Raatz, R-Richmond.

Rather than testify on the technical correction, HSPA’s testimony turned into an explanation of an amendment offered by Sen. Linda Rogers, R-Granger, that involved three separate sections of the Open Door Law. While Sen. Rogers’ amendment died with a tie vote, the bill was passed, 8-4. The committee discussion led to a 2nd reading amendment that HSPA supported. S.B. 83 was passed by the Senate, 45-4.

HSPA testified for the bill during its hearing before the House Education Committee, chaired by Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, who also was the bill’s sponsor. HSPA did suggest a change to allow public comments be tied to specific agenda items to avoid a school board putting public comments at the end of a meeting after final actions had been taken. The bill was held a week for an amendment to be prepared to improve the bill.

Rep. Behning said he was working with Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, on the amendment. Rep. Smith gave Legislative Services Agency permission to share the draft with HSPA. HSPA suggested a change so that citizens would not be limited to only three minutes to speak during a school board meeting. The bill was amended in committee and passed 10-0.
The bill was then passed by the House, 94-0. Sen. Leising did file a dissent, but the conference committee report primarily aligned the bill with previously passed H.B. 1130. The conference committee report was approved by the Senate, 39-11, and the House, 93-0.

H.B. 1080 – Authored by Rep. David Abbott, R-Rome City, this bill would have given the public the right to speak on agenda items at a public meeting of state and local government units. HSPA informed Rep. Abbott of its intent to support the bill if it moved.
Unfortunately, the bill did not get a hearing in the House Government and Regulatory Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Doug Miller, R-Elkhart. HSPA was told a decision was made by House Republicans to move H.B. 1130 instead of Abbott’s more expansive bill.

H.B. 1290 – Authored by Rep. Ryan Lauer, R-Columbus, this bill would have restricted the circumstances in which the governing body of a state or local public agency could hold a virtual meeting during a declared disaster emergency without any of the governing body members physically present.

The bill died without a hearing in the House Government and Regulatory Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Doug Miller, R-Elkhart. HSPA was told that a decision was made by House Republicans to move H.B. 1130 instead of Rep. Lauer’s bill.

S.B. 396 – Authored by Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville, This bill would have required school boards and library boards to allow citizens to speak at public hearings. HSPA would have supported this bill, but it died for lack of a hearing before the Senate Education and Career Development Committee, chaired by Sen. Jeff Raatz, R-Richmond, as the committee moved S.B. 83 instead of this legislation.

S.B. 117 – This bill eliminates identifying information on juvenile crime victims from the “daily log or report” required of law enforcement agencies when reporting police activity under the Access to Public Records Act. The bill was authored by Sen. Kyle Walker, R-Indianapolis.

The original version of the bill was more extensive on making confidential information when a juvenile is a victim of crime. HSPA talked to Sen. Walker and offered an amendment. Sen. Walker did amend but didn’t fully adopt the amendment HSPA had requested.
The bill was passed out of the Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee, chaired by Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis, 9-0, and by the Senate, 46-0.

HSPA followed up with Walker and sponsor Rep. Stephen Bartels, R-Eckerty, before the bill’s hearing before the House Veterans Affairs and Public Safety Committee, chaired by Rep. Randy Frye, R-Greensburg. HSPA testified before the committee and Rep. Frye asked that Rep. Bartels, Walker and HSPA get together and work on a 2nd reading amendment. The committee then approved the bill, 11-0.

Rep. Bartels did amend the language, limiting the scope of the bill to the “daily log or record.” The House then passed S.B. 117 with a 92-0 vote. Sen. Walker filed a concurrence, which the Senate approved, 47-1.

H.B. 1134 – This was the controversial critical race theory education bill. It was authored by Rep. Tony Cook, R-Cicero. It contained a provision that required school districts to post classroom materials on their websites with an accompanying provision that would allow school districts to deny records requests for that information if the citizen had access to a computer. HSPA opposed the concept of allowing a government unit to deny a records request on the basis that Hoosiers could find the information on a website.

HSPA raised its concern with Rep. Cook, who said the language was worked out by the state Attorney General’s office and House Republican policy attorney Danny Kelley. Rep. Cook suggested HSPA talk to Kelly, which HSPA did to register its opposition while appreciating that the website postings would increase transparency, Kelley said the intent was to relieve school officials from the burden of complying with what could be voluminous requests.

H.B. 1134 was passed by the House Education Committee, chaired by Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, with an 8-5 vote. It was passed by the House, 60-37.

Sen. Linda Rogers, R-Granger, told HSPA that the offending change to the Access to Public Record Act would be eliminated in her committee amendment to the bill. With 200 people signed up to testify on H.B. 1134, HSPA did not need to testify on its concern.

The bill was passed out by the Senate Education and Career Development Committee, chaired by Sen. Jeff Raatz, R-Richmond, with an 8-5 vote. The bill died though when it was not called down for a vote in the Senate.

S.B. 167 – Authored by Sen. Scott Baldwin, R-Noblesville, this was the companion bill to H.B. 1134 – the controversial education bill. It contained the same provision that would allow school corporations to deny records requests for classroom materials posted on their websites if the requester had access to a computer.

The bill did get a lengthy hearing before the Senate Education and Career Development Committee, chaired by Sen. Jeff Raatz, R-Richmond, but the committee did not vote on the bill, which effectively killed it. S.B. 167 died before HSPA was able to sit down with Sen. Baldwin to explain our concern.

H.B. 1247 – Authored by Rep. Ryan Lauer, R-Columbus, this bill requires the collection of greater information from child fatalities and its inclusion by the Department of Child Services’ annual report regarding child fatalities.

HSPA met with Rep. Lauer to better understand his goal. Lauer expressed his concern with the resistance by DCS to make the information available. HSPA testified in favor of the bill during its hearing before the Senate Family and Children Services Committee, chaired by Sen. Ron Grooms, R-Jeffersonville.

The bill was approved by the committee, 9-0, and passed by the Senate, 48-0. Lauer filed a concurrence and the House approved that motion, 88-0.

The House originally passed the bill, 90-0, after it was approved 12-0 by the House Family, Children and Human Affairs Committee, chaired by Rep. Dale DeVon, R-Granger.

S.B. 64 – This was a bill similar to H.B. 1247, concerning information to be reported by the state Department of Child Services. S.B. 64 was authored by Sen. Jon Ford, R-Terre Haute. HSPA would have supported the bill, but it died without a hearing in the Senate Family and Children Services Committee, chaired by Sen. Ron Grooms, R-Jeffersonville.

S.B. 195 – This bill concerned juvenile court requirements, such as expungement of certain records. It was authored by Sen. Rodney Pol, D-Chesterton. HSPA opposed a provision redacting information about the identity of juveniles alleged to be delinquent. Current law does identify children who are alleged to have committed an act that would be a felony or murder if committed by an adult.

HSPA did meet with Sen. Pol to explain its concern. The bill died for lack of a hearing before the Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee, chaired by Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis.

H.B. 1096 – Rep. Tim Wesco, R-Osceola, authored this bill to create greater transparency with the economic development process. HSPA would have supported this effort, but the bill died for lack of a hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Rep. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville.

H.B. 1309 – Authored by Rep. Chuck Moseley, D-Portage, this bill would provide that a public official who tampered with the official video or audio recording of a public meeting with the intent to make all or part of the official recording unavailable, materially inaccurate, or misleading commits tampering with an official recording, a Level 6 felony.
HSPA supports this concept, but would have recommended including tampering of copies of the recordings as a crime. The bill died for lack of a public hearing in the House Courts and Criminal Code Committee, chaired by Rep. Wendy McNamara, R-Evansville.

H.B. 1270 – Authored by Rep. Donna Schaibley, R-Carmel, this bill would have required a nonprofit hospital with more than 100 beds to report specified financial information to the state Department of Health. It would also require a nonprofit hospital and health carrier to post certain information at least 45 days before a public forum.
HSPA would have supported this bill, but it died without a hearing in the House Public Health Committee, chaired by Rep. Brad Barrett, R-Richmond.

H.B. 1170 – Authored by Rep. Tom Saunders, R-Lewisville, this bill would have prohibited a law enforcement agency from sharing the name or mug shot of someone arrested on social media or on the agency’s website or during a press conference, except under four circumstances. HSPA opposed this bill, which died without a hearing in the House Veterans Affairs and Public Safety Committee, chaired by Rep. Randy Frye, R-Greensburg.

H.B. 1104 – Rep. Sean Eberhart, R-Shelbyville, was the author of this bill concerning assisted reproduction and gestational surrogacy. It included a provision that would make court actions on this subject matter confidential, which raised a red flag with HSPA.
Rep. Eberhart had carried a similar bill in the 2021 session, so HSPA was prepared to see what amendment it had offered last year, but H.B. 1104 died when it didn’t emerge from the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel.

S.B. 212 – This bill would have added firefighters to the list of public employees whose home addresses may be made confidential – joining law enforcement and judicial officers. It was authored by Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville.

HSPA didn’t believe there had been any threats with firefighters, but was told by the lobbyist for firefighters, Pat Hanafee, that EMTs had been receiving threats and harassing phone calls during the pandemic. The bill died for lack of a hearing before the Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee, chaired by Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis.

S.B. 385 – Authored by Sen.Shelli Yoder, D-Bloomington, this bill would have made secret court records of cases concerning evictions. HSPA would have opposed secret court proceedings for a class of lawsuits, but before HSPA could talk to Sen. Yoder, the bill died for lack of a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Liz Brown, R-Fort Wayne.

H.B. 1332 – This bill would have added regulations to employment agencies. It was authored by Rep. Cindy Ziemke, R-Batesville. There was a problematic section with confidentiality language that HSPA would have attempted to amend, but the bill died for a lack of a hearing in the House Employment, Labor and Pensions Committee, chaired by Rep. Heath VanNatter, R-Kokomo.

H.B. 1350 – Authored by Rep. Bruce Borders, R-Jasonville, this bill would have required the Indiana Department of Health to establish an Indiana vaccination adverse event reporting system for reporting the occurrence of adverse events relating to childhood vaccines.

This bill contained a confidentiality provision that HSPA would have wanted to amend, but the bill died for lack of a hearing in the House Public Health Committee, chaired by Rep. Brad Barrett, R-Richmond.

H.B. 1389 – This was an education matters bill authored by Rep. Chris Judy, R-Fort Wayne. It contained a couple of public records provisions that raised questions as to public access. Before HSPA could reach out to Rep. Judy, the bill died for lack of a hearing in the House Education Committee, chaired by Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis.

H.B. 1411 – Authored by Rep. Curt Nisly, R-Milford, this bill would have established additional requirements for a caucus to exclude the public from attending under the Open Door Law. HSPA liked the concept of the bill, but it would have asked Rep. Nisly to tweak the bill to protect the openness of caucus meetings called to fill the vacancy in an elected position.

The bill died for lack of a hearing in the House Government and Regulatory Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Doug Miller, R-Elkhart.

S.B. 312 – Authored by Sen. Shelli Yoder, D-Bloomington, this bill would have created a civil action if someone disclosed health care information, including images, about an individual without the patient’s permission. HSPA had a concern about the impact on news coverage, such as photos of EMTs treating an accident victim.

Before HSPA was able to talk to Sen. Yoder about its concern the bill died for lack of a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Liz Brown, R-Fort Wayne.

Sales Tax on services
H.B. 1083 – This bill included language to expand Indiana’s sales tax to services, which would have included advertising. HSPA reached out to bill author Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Lizton, to express its concern with the concept. Florida and Iowa passed similar legislation in the past and in both cases, rescinded the law in the following year because the administrative costs were greater than the revenue collected.

Rep. Thompson said he would not move the bill this year, but asked HSPA to visit with him this summer, because he plans to bring the tax bill up again in the 2023 session after considering information he collects on the subject this year. The bill died for lack of a hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Rep. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville.

First Amendment
H.B. 1369 – Language that would have made library personnel liable for the dissemination of materials “harmful to minors” was inserted into this bill, authored by Rep. Bob Morris, R-Fort Wayne, during the conference committee stage. The vague standard posed a First Amendment concern, which was raised during the House debate on this conference committee report by Reps. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, Tonya Pfaff, D-Terre Haute; and Ed Delaney, D-Indianapolis. The House approved the report, 65-32.

The CCR sponsor was Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis. The Senate defeated the conference committee report, 21-29, killing the bill in the last hour of the legislative session. HSPA believes the language originated with S.B. 17.

S.B. 17 – Authored by Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville, this bill would have made school districts and libraries subject to prosecution for dissemination of materials harmful to minors, while giving immunity to colleges from such prosecution. It raised First Amendment concerns about the chilling effect for teachers and librarians on what could be shared.

The bill was approved by 9-4 by the Senate Education and Career Development Committee and 34-15 by the Senate. It was assigned to the House Education Committee, chaired by Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, with Rep. Michelle Davis, R-Whiteland, as sponsor. It died in committee for lack of a hearing, although passage of the language in the Senate made it eligible to be resurrected in the conference committee report for H.B. 1369 as part of its conference committee report.

H.B. 1097 – This bill would have made library, museum, and school personnel liable for the dissemination of materials “harmful to minors.” This raised a First Amendment concern with HSPA as to the vagueness of the standard and the chilling effect it could produce. Rep. Chris Jeter, R-Fishers, was the bill’s author.

The bill died in the House Courts and Criminal Code Committee, chaired by Rep. Wendy McNamara, R-Evansville.

H.B. 1207 – This bill authored by Rep. John Young, R-Franklin, would have replaced the state’s anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) with the Uniform Public Expression Protection Act. HSPA was concerned that this erase valuable precedents set by Indiana courts that served newspapers to quickly dispose of meritless lawsuits. HSPA also was unsure whether journalists would be better or less protected. HSPA’s unease was shared by the counsel for the Indiana Broadcasters Association, Dan Byron of Dentons.
Rep. Young did not accept HSPA’s concerns, but Rep. Jerry Torr, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said he was uncomfortable with the bill and did not give it a hearing, which killed the bill.

S.B. 274 – Authored by Sen. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, this bill would have prohibited social media platforms from censoring a user based on a viewpoint shared by the user with some exceptions. HSPA had a concern with a censorship provision in the bill, but it died for lack of a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Liz Brown, R-Fort Wayne.

Miscellaneous
S.B. 280 – Authored by Sen. Jim Buck, R-Kokomo, this bill would have allowed obituary notices to be published on a county, city, or town’s “official website.” Sen. Buck does not believe it is fair that newspapers require Hoosiers to pay for the publication of obits. He feels the policy favors the rich over the poor as to the length of an obituary.
Sen. Buck though did not give his bill a hearing in his Senate Local Government Committee, so the legislation died.

S.B. 358 – This bill would have addressed consumer data protection with certain requirements for entities that collect the information and whether it can be shared or sold to other entities without permission of the consumer. It was authored by Sen. Liz Brown, R-Fort Wayne.

HSPA was unclear as to the impact the bill would have on newspapers’ collection of data from subscribers or those who visited newspaper websites. HSPA reached out to several members for input on the impact.

HSPA was told Sen. Brown’s legislation was modeled after Virginia law. (California and Colorado have also passed legislation on consumer data protection.)
The Senate Commerce and Technology Committee, chaired by Sen. Chip Perfect, R-Lawrenceburg, approved S.B. 358, 10-0. The Senate passed it, 49-0.

During the bill’s hearing before the House Commerce, Small Business & Economic Development Committee, chaired by Rep. Bob Morris, R-Fort Wayne, Sen. Brown noted that the effective date would be three years in the future.
The bill was approved by the House committee, but died without a vote on the House floor. Rep. Morris was the bill sponsor.

S.B. 360 – This bill would limit the scope of ethics regulations by narrowing the definition of relatives that would trigger a conflict of interest disclosure. It was authored by Sen. Mike Bohacek, R-Michigan City. HSPA would have suggested an amendment, but the bill died for a lack of a hearing in the Senate Local Government Committee, chaired by Sen. Jim Buck R-Kokomo.

Advertising
S.B. 239 & H.B. 1113 – Both bills set limitations on how medical practitioners can advertise their services. The original versions didn’t specify whether newspaper and broadcast advertising would be included in the scope of the bill, but may have been captured in a catch-all provision.

HSPA reached out to Rep. Dennis Zent, R-Angola, author of the House bill. Rep. Zent referred HSPA to the Indiana State Medical Association. John Ruckelshaus of the ISMA informed HSPA that there would be an amendment clarifying that the restrictions would include media advertising.

H.B. 1113 failed to emerge from the House Public Health Committee, chaired by Rep. Brad Barrett, R-Richmond.

S.B. 239, authored by Rep. Kevin Boehnlein, R-Greenville did move forward and the ISMA amendment did become a part of the bill. It emerged from the Senate Health & Provider Services Committee, chaired by Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, and the Senate, 49-0. The sponsor was Rep. Dennis Zent, R-Angola. It was approved by the House Public Health Committee, chaired by Rep. Brad Barrett, R-Richmona, and the House, 84-1

Boehnlein did file a dissent. The conference committee report was approved by the Senate, 40-10 and the House, 88-6.

Compacts
Bills to allow Indiana to join interstate compacts with other states are frustrating because they routinely contain provisions for secrecy that run contrary to Indiana’s Open Door Law or Access to Public Records Act. The ability to amend those troubling provisions is nil because any change will prevent Indiana from being allowed to join the compact.
All four of the bills included in this section contained the same provision keeping secret if a state was accused of violating the compact.

S.B. 251 – The interstate medical licensure compact, authored by Sen. Liz Brown, R-Fort Wayne. It becomes law after passage in the Senate, 46-0, and the House, 88-0.

S.B. 36 – The audiology and speech-language pathology compact, authored by Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn. The bill was passed in the Senate, 46-0, but died in the House for lack of a hearing in the Employment, Labor and Pensions Committee, chaired by Rep. VanNatter, R-Kokomo.

H.B. 1069 – The psychology interjurisdictional compact, authored by Rep. Cindy Ziemke, R-Batesville, died without a hearing in the House Public Health Committee, chaired by Rep. Brad Barrett, R-Richmond.

H.B. 1202 – The professional counselors licensure compact, authored by Rep. Mike Andrade, D-Munster, died without a hearing in the House Public Health Committee, chaired by Rep. Brad Barrett R-Richmond.

 

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