Sue Loughlin, March 1st 2024

An amendment made to a bill in the waning days of the Indiana General Assembly session would severely restrict the public access counselor’s role in issuing opinions, and it would eliminate the counselor’s four-year term.

The amendment was approved 5-3 by a Senate committee this week as part of House Bill 1338, which gives guidelines to local governments on how to deal with disruptive conduct at public meetings.

State Sen. Aaron Freeman, R-Indianapolis, offered the amendment that says the state’s public access counselor, when issuing an advisory opinion, “may consider only the plain text of the public access laws and valid Indiana court opinions.”


As far as the elimination of the four-year term of appointment, McClure pointed out the public access counselor already serves at the will of the governor.

With the elimination of that four-year term, “I have concerns that it makes it a more political position,” she said.


Also weighing in on the amendment was Gerry Lanosga, executive secretary of the Indiana Coalition for Open Government. He teaches media law at Indiana University and is a former journalist.

The amendment is to the part of statute that dictates what the public access counselor can do, Lanosga said. It does not amend the actual public access laws relating to open meetings and records.

Both of those laws have language that states they “are to be liberally construed,” providing guidance on how the laws are to be interpreted.

“This is legislative intent that goes back decades,” Lanosga said. “I’m not sure this [amendment] does what they want it to do.”

But if it does, “That’s a real problem. It’s bad public policy,” he said. “Public business should be conducted in public, period. Anything that dials that back and limits the ability of the public to get insight into the affairs of government is bad public policy.”

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