There are three statutes which are the pillars supporting government transparency:
- Open Door Law (I.C. 5-14-1.5):
This statute requires governing bodies of state and local government to meet in public sessions so Hoosiers can observe and record, with some exceptions outlined.
- Access to Public Records Act (I.C. 5-14-3):
This statute requires state and local government units to make its records available for copying and inspection, with some exceptions.
- Public Notice Advertising Law (I.C. 5-3-1):
This statute outlines the rules the General Assembly has determined certain information is so important to share with Hoosiers, it requires state or local government units, or sometimes citizens, to publish the information in local newspapers as a paid public notice.
Following are bills introduced this legislative session (2018) which ICOG and the Hoosier State Press Association, the group which represents the state’s paid-circulation newspapers, has identified that if adopted, will impact the ability of the public to know what state and local government is doing or contemplating.
Access to Public Records Act
This bill clarifies the information the public has a right to request when a government unit disciplines a public employee. The intent is to help Hoosiers determine whether the discipline was not merited, was too harsh, or too lenient, which could impact voting decisions.
This bill would require reports on job creation tied to economic development incentives given by state and local government units to private companies so that Hoosiers can determine whether the cost of economic development tax breaks and infrastructure improvements is appropriate to the boost in the economy created by the benefitting company.
Public Notice Advertising
This bill would eliminate the publication requirement for state and local government units’ public notices. They would be removed from Indiana newspapers, read by 3 million adult Hoosiers at least once a week and places on multiple government websites the Hoosiers would have to routinely check to see what government activity might impact their lives or their community.
This bill would restore the requirement which existed up to 2014 that mandated local governments publish their proposed budgets and tax rate information in local newspapers prior to the hearing on that budget. The budgets were moved from newspapers to the website of the state Department of Local Government Finance, where 12,000 unique visitors saw them over all of 2017 compared to the 3 million Hoosier newspaper readers who no longer have the opportunity to see them in the local newspaper.