Signing of pro-access bill caps session

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HSPA supported legislation adding a civil fine provision to state public access laws, one of the association’s several focuses during the 2012 Indiana General Assembly.

Following is a summary of other bills that HSPA either supported, opposed, sought to amend or monitored:

Public access

S.E.A. 262 reorganized Title 4 and 5, but Sen. Richard Bray, R-Martinsville, added a change to the Access to Public Records Act.

The author of the bill reduced the penalty against a public official who releases a confidential record from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class A infraction.

Bray told HSPA he didn’t believe the action should be a criminal offense. HSPA supported the change because the criminal penalty tended to make public officials err on the side of secrecy for fear of becoming criminally liable for a mistake.

HSPA approached Bray and Inspector General David Thomas with language to clarify that the penalty would only apply to the release of records mandated by law to be confidential or records a public agency had used its discretion to declare confidential. Bray and Thomas accepted the HSPA amendment, which sponsor Rep. Greg Steuerwald, R-Danville, inserted during the bill’s hearing before the House Committee on Courts and Criminal Code.

The Senate and House approved S.E.A. 262’s conference committee report 49-0 and 90-1, respectively. It awaited the signature of Gov. Mitch Daniels at press time.

S.E.A. 259 adds strategy concerning school consolidation as subject matter that can be discussed in an executive session. Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette, authored the bill at the request of the Indiana School Boards Association.

HSPA testified that the bill made a reasonable request but expressed wariness about how school boards and superintendents will interpret the provision.

Strategy implies that two parties are in negotiations, so the provision shouldn’t be invoked so the school board can meet behind closed doors to discuss whether school consolidation should be pursued.

The Senate and House passed the bill 46-4 and 62-31, respectively. Daniels signed the act March 6.

S.B. 343, filed by Sen. John Broden, D-South Bend, would have allowed governing bodies to use executive session to discuss strategy concerning the sale or lease of property owned by a government unit.

HSPA opposes this concept because state law prescribes the price for disposing of property by a governing body, making a secret strategy session unnecessary. HSPA explained its opposition to Broden. The bill died for lack of a hearing in the Senate Committee on Local Government, chaired by then-Sen. Connie Lawson, R-Danville.

S.E.A. 4 makes human trafficking a crime. A provision in the legislation allows police to keep confidential the names of victims of human trafficking when providing daily log information under IC 5-14-3-5(c).

HSPA supported this change as consistent with the treatment of victims of sex crimes by the media.

Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport, authored the bill, sponsored by Rep. Greg Steuerwald, R-Danville. Legis­lators fast-tracked the bill with a 48-0 vote in the Senate and 95-0 vote in the House. Gov. Mitch Daniels signed the bill into law Jan. 30 just before Indianapolis hosted the Super Bowl.

S.E.A. 286 contains a provision that makes audiotapes of citizens calling the Department of Child Services hotline confidential. HSPA raised the concern that secrecy hampers efforts to see how well the system works.

DCS legislative director Brady Brookes said the department will provide transcripts but believes the tapes must be kept confidential to protect the identity of those calling to report potential child abuse or neglect.

Sen. Connie Lawson, R-Danville, authored the bill, sponsored by Rep. Wendy McNamara, R-Mount Vernon. They sided with the DCS on the issue.

The act also contains provisions that clarify how long reports of child abuse, abandonment or neglect must be kept. HSPA favored this.

S.E.A. 286, which made numerous other changes, passed unanimously in the Senate (50-0) and House (98-0) prior to the Senate approving a concurrence on House changes 46-1.

S.B. 384, authored by Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, concerned school accreditation. It contained a provision that would require information about a school’s lack of compliance with standards to be kept secret until the Department of Education conducted an on-site evaluation.

HSPA expressed its concern over this provision to Kruse and sponsor Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis. The DOE did not oppose a change.

Behning and Kruse ensured the HSPA-suggested change was part of a conference committee report on S.B. 384, but the bill died in the last hours of the session.

H.E.A. 1033 will impose restrictions on entities that collect police and court information in databases so that employers can conduct background checks on job candidates.

The legislature wants the databases to be updated frequently to reflect expungements ordered by the courts.

The Indiana Broadcasters Association lobbyist, Glenna Shelby, worked with the bill’s author and sponsor, Rep. Jud McMillan, R-Brookville, and Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, respectively, to add language exempting the media from the restrictions and penalties included in the act. Shelby and HSPA agreed on this approach.

The House approved the bill’s conference committee report 76-11, and the Senate approved it 45-3. Gov. Mitch Daniels signed the act on March 15.

H.B. 1372, authored by Rep. Cindy Noe, R-Indianapolis, would allow public inspection of veterans’ discharge papers filed with county recorders.

These records had been made confidential by the legislature a couple of sessions ago out of concern for the release of Social Security numbers.

Since then the legislature had made Social Security numbers confidential in public records and Noe reported that descendants of some veterans had difficulties getting documentation to secure scholarships or other benefits.

HSPA testified in favor of the bill before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs and Public Safety, but the chairman, Rep. Bruce Borders, R-Jasonville, held the bill without a vote, so it died.

H.B. 1222 involved regulations concerning auto dealers and the Indiana secretary of state’s office. HSPA worked with author Rep. David Yarde, R-Garrett, on a provision concerning the confidentiality of certain records.

The bill died in the last days of the legislative session.

H.B. 1008 concerned incentives for wind turbine facilities. HSPA worked with author Rep. Charles Moseley, D-Portage, on an amendment to clarify what information would be public in the application process.

The bill died without a hearing in the House Committee on Ways and Means, chaired by Rep. Jeff Espich, R-Uniondale.

H.E.A. 1239 deals with financial institutions. HSPA talked to author Rep. Woody Burton, R-Greenwood, and John Schroeder of the Department of Financial Institutions about a provision that would be out of kilter with wording in another bill. Everyone agreed that the issue could be addressed in the next session if necessary.

The General Assembly passed Burton’s bill, and the governor signed it into law March 6.

S.B. 25, authored by Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, would have brought redevelopment commissions under greater public scrutiny by requiring their budgets to be approved by their local legislative body.

The Senate Committee on Local Government, chaired by Sen. Connie Lawson, R-Danville, approved the bill, and it passed the Senate 39-8.

Sens. Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville; Greg Walker, R-Columbus; and Jean Breaux, D-Indianapolis; co-authored the bill. Rep. Bob Cherry, R-Greenfield, sponsored the legislation.

The bill died for lack of a hearing in the House Government and Regulatory Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Kevin Mahan, R-Hartford City.

S.E.A. 311 establishes a process for cost benefit analysis for administrative rules. Author Sen. Brandt Hershman, D-Buck Creek, added provisions giving confidentiality to certain information entities would provide to the Office of Management and Budget to conduct this analysis.

Rep. Randy Truitt, R-West Lafayette, sponsored the bill in the House. The two chambers passed this act unanimously (50-0 in the Senate and 96-0 in the House) prior to the Senate’s concurrence vote of 43-5. The governor signed the bill into law March 19.

S.B. 325, introduced by Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indian­apolis, would have restricted access to arrest records depending on prosecutorial outcome. HSPA opposes the concept of expungement as an ineffective way to encourage employment for those who have run afoul of the law.

Taylor’s bill died for lack of a hearing in the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, chaired by Sen. Richard Bray, R-Martinsville.

S.B. 53 concerned internal audits conducted by insurance companies. HSPA discussed secrecy provisions with Sen. Doug Eckerty, R-Yorktown, but the issue became moot when the bill died in the Senate Committee on Insurance and Financial Institutions, chaired by Sen. Allen Paul, R-Richmond.

H.B. 1336, the House version of the expungement bill, was authored by Rep. Vanessa Summers, D-Indianapolis. The bill died for lack of a hearing in the House Committee on Courts and Criminal Code, chaired by Rep. Greg Steuerwald, R-Danville.

H.B. 1198 also dealt with expungement of criminal records. HSPA would have opposed this bill, authored by Rep. Eric Turner, R-Cicero, but it died for lack of a hearing in the House Committee on Courts and Criminal Code, chaired by Rep. Greg Steuerwald, R-Danville.

First Amendment

S.B. 196, introduced by Sen. Brent Waltz, D-Green­wood, would have prohibited police from downloading data from cell phones of individuals stopped by police unless they have a search warrant.

HSPA supports this concept to prevent police from using technology to discover reporters’ anonymous sources and other information. The bill died without a vote in the Senate Committee on Judiciary, chaired by Sen. Richard Bray, R-Martinsville.

H.B. 1217, introduced for the Indiana State Police by Rep. Cindy Kirchhofer, R-Beech Grove, would have em­­powered law enforcement to obtain phone records held by out-of-state entities.

This raised a concern with HSPA over the ability of law enforcement to seek the records of newspapers to ferret out sources. HSPA hoped to use this vehicle to strengthen the state’s reporters’ privilege provision (shield law), but the bill died in the House after passage in the House Committee on Courts and Criminal Code.

S.B. 122, introduced by Sen. Vaneta Becker, R-Evansville, would have set performance standards for the singing of the national anthem.

HSPA expressed its First Amendment concern over the concept of state government threatening citizens with a fine if their rendition didn’t meet requirements.

Becker pulled the bill while it awaited a vote in the Senate Committee for Education and Career Development. Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, co-authored.

S.B. 184 would have made it a Class A misdemeanor to photograph or film agricultural operations without written consent. Sen. Ron Grooms, R-Jeffersonville, authored the bill, with Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, as co-author.

HSPA opposed this concept but did not have to testify because the bill died without a hearing in the Senate Committee on Corrections, Criminal and Civil Matters, chaired by Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford.

Public notice advertising

H.E.A. 1226 originally contained a provision eliminating the requirement that out-of-state insurance companies publish statements of condition in Indiana newspapers.

Author Rep. Matt Lehman, R-Berne, agreed to remove the provision with a pledge from HSPA to explore ways to ease the administrative burden for the Department of Insurance before the next legislative session.

Lehman’s bill, without the offending provision, went on to be passed by the General Assembly. The governor signed the bill March 15.

H.B. 1108 concerned commercial composting facilities. HSPA worked with author Rep. Charles Moseley, D-Portage, on an amendment that would allow for extra publication of notices beyond the limits of a county to satisfy his concern that citizens wouldn’t see the notice otherwise.

The bill died for lack of a hearing in the House Com­mittee on Environmental Affairs, chaired by Rep. David Wolkins, R-Winona Lake.

S.B. 110 contained a provision that would make it a Class C infraction for a county official to place a public notice advertisement in more newspapers than required.

HSPA pointed out to author Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, that the provision effectively punishes an official who attempts to go beyond the bare minimum in informing the public about government activities.

Holdman agreed to remove the provision, but the bill died in the Senate first.

Miscellaneous

H.B. 1133 would have extended the time frame of the Rights of Publicity law. HSPA monitored this bill authored by Rep. Sean Eberhardt, R-Shelbyville, but didn’t take any action.

When the legislature passed the Rights of Publicity law in the 1990s, then HSPA General Counsel and Executive Director Dick Cardwell lobbied for language that protects the media. The changes in H.B. 1133 didn’t impact that buffer.

The bill passed the House 85-7 vote but died in the Senate Committee on Public Policy, chaired by Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette. Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, sponsored the bill.

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