State Lawmakers Favor Anti-Access Measures

Each year, the Indiana Coalition for Open Government tracks access measures in the Indiana General Assembly.

Of the 22 bills in this report, only one pro-access bill became law and nine
anti-access bills became law. In all, 15 of the 22 measures we tracked proposed additional restrictions and new secrecy provisions governing public records and public meetings. One bill proposed extending confidentiality provisions that already exist.

 

2006 Indiana Legislative Preview

The Hoosier State Press Association provided information for this digest. The Indiana Coalition for Open Government is providing a ranking of these bills so you can more quickly determine whether Indiana citizens lost, or gained, ground in public meetings and public records legislation.

Enrolled Acts are now Indiana laws. Bills mentioned in this report did not pass for lack of hearings or full votes in the House or Senate. Both can be found online at www.in.gov/legislative (click on bills and resolutions). You can read the entire text and make your own determinations about the potential impact on citizens and public policy.

Of the 22 bills in this report, only one pro-access bill became law and nine anti-access bills became law. In all, 15 of the 22 measures listed here proposed additional restrictions and new secrecy provisions governing public records and public meetings. One bill proposed extending confidentiality provisions that already exist.

NEW LAWS

House Enrolled Act 1101 Identity Theft
Rep. Jackie Walorski Swihart, R-Lakeville, introduced this bill that primarily dealt with requirements for private companies to let individuals know when databases have been breached that might put those individuals at risk for identity theft. The original bill would have closed down thousands of records about individuals who apply for state licenses or permits, except for disciplinary records. The Indiana Gaming Commission also was seeking to make confidential information in its licensing records, particularly financial data of individuals applying for licenses and applications. The bill allows the commission to keep confidential bank account numbers of those individuals, including owners of casinos. The information was previously public. By the end of this debate, the gaming commission won its argument but the professional licensing agency records remained accessible to the public.

RESTRICTED ACCESS


Senate Enrolled Act 359 – State Bidding Practices
Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Monticello, introduced this bill for the Indiana Department of Administration to eliminate the open bid process for all levels of government, replacing it with a process that allows for secret negotiations between the government entity and bidders. Several organizations testified against the secrecy provisions, worried about the potential for favoring particular bidders in a closed process. The bill was amended so that state agencies agreed to a public comment period of seven days for contracts greater than $200,000 and the creation of a register for documenting the negotiations. The provisions apply only to state contracts. Local government still must meet current public disclosure and hearing requirements for its contracts.

RESTRICTED ACCESS


Senate Enrolled Act 247 – State Intelligence Agencies
Sen. Tom Wyss, R-Fort Wayne, introduced this bill that among other things establishes the Indiana Intelligence Fusion Center to analyze intelligence information relating to criminal activity or terrorism. The center is a main repository of information for local law enforcement agencies to report all manner of suspicious activity. As passed, the bill adds discussion of information about preventing terrorism as secret and also allows intelligence assessment records to be confidential. The bill’s original language would have made any meetings and records of the Fusion Center Counterterrorism and Security Council secret.

RESTRICTED ACCESS


House Enrolled Act 1008 – State Highway Project Bids (Public-Private Partnerships)

Rep. Randy Borror, R-Fort Wayne, introduced Gov. Mitch Daniels’ “Major Moves” legislation, which approved a lease arrangement with a private company for the Indiana Toll Road. The bill gives the governor the authority to enter into additional public-private partnerships involving bridges or roads, including the I-69 connection between Evansville and Indianapolis. The final version may be difficult to interpret until a request is made for the information. The language intends to make records confidential during the negotiation process for these public-private agreements, while making the winning bid available prior to a required public hearing before the contract can be awarded. Losing offers are supposed to be released for public inspection after the state executes the contract.

RESTRICTED ACCESS


Senate Enrolled Act 191 – Digital Photos of Persons Arrested
Sen. Tom Wyss, R-Fort Wayne, introduced this bill that will require police departments to upload digital photographs of arrested individuals to the state’s criminal history database. Prior to this law, there was no requirement for local law enforcement agencies to forward those photos to state police. Those eligible under law to receive limited criminal histories from state or local agencies will now receive those photos. A limited criminal history includes a report that details arrests only with convictions, or recent arrests with no disposition.

EXPANDED ACCESS


Senate Enrolled Act 300 – Indiana Victim Compensation Fund Records
Sen. David Long, R-Fort Wayne, introduced this bill concerning the state’s victim compensation fund, which proposed to make a victim’s personal information confidential. The Criminal Justice Institute said the language in the bill would not impact police and court records, only the records of the entity that administers the victim’s fund. The records are now secret at the state level.

RESTRICTED ACCESS 


Senate Enrolled Act 205 – Public Agency E-Mail Lists
Sen. Jeff Drozda, R-Westfield, introduced this legislation to make e-mail address lists compiled by state or local government agencies confidential, or closed to the public. The bill was a response to a lawsuit filed by 16-year-old Ryan Nees against Kokomo Mayor Matt McKillip. Nees was trying to determine whether McKillip was using the list of residents who signed up for the city’s electronic newsletter to send out re-election campaign information, a charge that McKillip denied. Public agencies can now keep those lists secret.

RESTRICTED ACCESS


Senate Enrolled Act 72 – Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission Meetings
Sen. David Long, R-Fort Wayne, introduced this legislation that allows the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to hold executive sessions to deliberate on proposed orders. Proposed orders cover utility rate hikes, definition of service areas, and fines and penalties. The orders, however, are public record and the commission meets in public to approve orders.

RESTRICTED ACCESS


House Enrolled Act 1158 – State Police Accident Reports
Rep. Kathy Richardson, R-Noblesville, introduced this bill primarily concerning small claims courts. But the bill was amended to give the Indiana State Police the ability to charge a fee for information requested on traffic accidents from an enhanced state database. The fee has yet to be established and state police do not yet have a governing policy for this new law.

POTENTIALLY RESTRICTED ACCESS BASED ON NEW FEES


House Enrolled Act 1099 – Fireworks Accident Reports
Rep. David Frizzell, R-Indianapolis, introduced comprehensive fireworks legislation, which would have required medical providers to file a report when someone is injured by fireworks. Legislators opted to make the reports secret.

RESTRICTED ACCESS


FAILED BILLS

 House Bill 1067- Birth and Death Records
Rep. Bob Cherry, R-Greenfield, introduced this bill that would have made confidential birth and death records held by county health departments. This version proposed exceptions for journalists and genealogists, allowing them continuing access to the records. But the public would not have been able to receive those records. Cause of death records are confidential at the state level, but not at the county level. However, only about two-thirds of county agencies store those records. The bill did not receive a committee hearing.

PROPOSED RESRICTED ACCESS


House Bill 1083- Coroner’s Death Reports
Rep. Clyde Kersey, D-Terre Haute, authored this bill that would require a coroner to file a supplemental report concerning a person’s time of death, if more precise information becomes available at a later date. New language was suggested to create a deadline for a coroner to release cause of death information. In a number of high-profile death cases, coroners had not released information saying there were no deadlines in law to do so. The bill failed to get a hearing in the House Committee on Public Health chaired by Rep. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville.

PROPOSED EXPANDED ACCESS


House Bill 1235 – Medical Quarantines
Rep. Bill Ruppel, R-North Manchester, introduced this bill allowing a public health authority to seek a court order for quarantining individuals with communicable diseases. The court hearings seeking quarantine orders would be open to the public.

PROPOSED EXPANDED ACCESS


Senate Bill 324 – School Districts and State Regulations
Sen. Jeff Drozda, R-Westfield, introduced this bill that would empower school districts to opt out of many state regulations. The original version would have included the ability for school corporations to waive their responsibilities to follow the Open Door Law, Access to Public Records Act or Public Notice Advertising Act. The bill did require schools to continue publishing the annual school performance report, for example. The bill died for lack of a House floor vote.

PROPOSED RESTRICTED ACCESS


Senate Bill 203 – Juvenile Names in Accident Reports
Sen. Marvin Riegsecker, R-Goshen, introduced this bill that would have made confidential information about minors contained in law enforcement records, including accident reports. It also would have made it a criminal offense if someone, such as a reporter, tried to obtain information identifying the children. The bill was filed at the request of the Elkhart Sheriff’s Department in response to a situation where an incarcerated child molester wrote letters to two 14-year-old boys who had been passengers in a traffic accident. The bill died for lack of a floor vote in the Senate.

PROPOSED RESTRICTED ACCESS


Senate Bill 89 – Serial Meetings Held by Public Agencies
Sen. Bev Gard, R-Greenfield, authored a bill to close the “serial meetings” loophole in the Open Door Law and set parameters for governing bodies to use electronic means to participate in meetings. For the second year, Gard’s legislation passed overwhelmingly in the Senate, with a committee vote of 8-3 and a floor vote of 48-2. But the bill died in the House when Rep. Jim Buck, R-Kokomo, declined to give the bill a hearing in his House Government and Regulatory Reform Committee.

PROPOSED ADDITIONAL ACCESS


Senate Bill 230 – Postsecondary Education Loans

Sen. Teresa Lubbers, R-Indianapolis, introduced this bill that would have permitted the Indiana Secondary Market for Education Loans, Inc. to become a direct lender of postsecondary loans. The board of directors would have been allowed to meet in executive session closed to the public to discuss proprietary business information. The bill died for lack of a hearing before the House Committee on Financial Institutions.

PROPOSED RESTRICTED ACCESS


Senate Bill 270 – Federal Assistance Records
Sen. Pat Miller, R-Indianapolis, introduced this bill concerning Family & Social Services Administration matters. It included changing Aid to Families with Dependent Children references to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. The recipients of that aid would remain confidential as they do under existing law.

PROPOSED RESTRICTED ACCESS (SAME IN EXISTING LAW)


Senate Bill 243 – Sheriff Disciplinary Actions
Sen. Larry Lutz, D-Evansville, introduced this bill that would have reduced the maximum time that a sheriff’s deputy may be suspended without a public hearing. Under current law, a sheriff can punish a deputy in secret without public hearings for up to 15 days. This proposal would have shortened that time frame to five days. The bill failed to get a hearing in Senate committees. The bill failed to get a hearing in the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs and Interstate Cooperation chaired by Sen. Marvin Riegsecker, R-Goshen.

PROPOSED EXPANDED ACCESS


Senate Bill 210 – Nursing Homes and Hospital Records
Sen. Gary Dillon, R-Pierceton, introduced this bill that would have required a health care facility to file patient safety incident reports concerning certain acts that cause or could have caused harm to a patient. The original language made the reports confidential. The bill did not receive a hearing.

PROPOSED RESTRICTED ACCESS


Senate Bill 1182 – Criminal Histories
Rep. Tim Neese, R-Elkhart, introduced this bill that would have expanded a person’s criminal history to include information concerning any arrest or criminal charge in an individual’s past. Existing law excludes arrest information without any court disposition or conviction. The bill did no receive a hearing.

PROPOSED EXPANDED ACCESS


Senate Bill 322 – Public Pensions
Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, introduced this bill concerning the forfeiture of public pensions for misconduct by public officials or employees. The process and records involving forfeiture would have been made confidential. The bill was passed out of that committee, but reassigned to the Senate Committee on Joint Rules, where it died.

PROPOSED RESTRICTED ACCESS


2005 in Review

Take a look back at some of the legislative issues ICOG tracked during the 2005 session:

HB 1003 (plus)
Rep. Randy Borror, R-Fort Wayne, introduced a bill that creates the Indiana Economic Development Corporation as a replacement for state Department of Commerce. Thanks to an amendment by Rep. Scott Reske, D-Pendleton, which was accepted by the bill’s author, the corporation will be subject to the state’s Open Door Law and Access to Public Records Act. Still in question is whether this group is subject to an audit by the State Board of Accounts. The bill has been referred to Senate Committee on Appropriations.

Update (2/1/05): Sen. Vi Simpson, D-Bloomington, offered amendment clarifying that the state Board of Accounts would audit the Indiana Economic Development Corporation every year, which was accepted in the Senate Committee on Appropriations. The bill now awaits action on the Senate floor.

Update (4/18/05): Bill approved by both House and Senate and signed into law by Gov. Mitch Daniels.

For a full version of the bill online, click here.

HB 1136 (minus) – Rep. Steve Heim, R-Culver, is author of bill that would effectively transfer public notice advertising from newspapers to Internet. American Opinion Research poll in 2004 found 62 percent of Hoosiers would read public notice advertisements less often or much less often if newspaper publication ends. Assigned to House Local Government Committee, chaired by Rep. Phil Hinkle, R-Indianapolis.

Update (4/18/05): Bill died when it failed to get a committee hearing in the House. Concept not expected to resurface during this legislative session.

For a full version of the bill online, click here.

HB 1221 (plus)
Rep. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, introduced this bill to be identical to Sen. Gard’s SB 310. Bill assigned to House Government and Regulatory Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Jim Buck, R-Kokomo.

Update (4/18/05): Bill died for lack of a committee hearing in the House.

For a full version of the bill online, click here.

HB 1522 (needs work) – Rep. Bob Alderman, R-Fort Wayne, is author of bill that would create gaming agents as a new, separate law enforcement department. Bill contains language that would allow gaming agents investigations greater secrecy than any other police department. Rep. Alderman has agreed to consider amendment if bill gets a hearing.

Update (4/18/05): Rep. Bob Alderman, R-Fort Wayne, and Gaming Commissioner Ernest Yelton agreed to amend out secrecy provision. Bill died, but concept expected to resurface in amended form.

For a full version of the bill online, click here.

HB 1551 (minus) – Rep. David Wolkins, R-Winona Lake, is author of bill that would close public access to birth and death records. These records now used by genealogists, journalists and others either to trace family history, confirm identities or search for potential cancer clusters. Assigned to House Public Health Committee, chaired by Rep. Vaneta Becker, R-Evansville.

Update (4/18/05): Bill died when it failed to get a committee hearing in the House. Concept not expected to resurface during this legislative session.

For a full version of the bill online, click here.

SB 189 (needs work)
Sen. Frank Mrvan (D-Hammond) introduced bill that would require meeting notice be given to individuals or organizations that request it from public agencies’ governing bodies. Concerns about this bill include fees that individuals might be forced to pay to receive notice. Assigned to Senate Governmental Affairs and Interstate Cooperation Committee, chaired by Sen. Marvin Riegsecker, R-Goshen.

For a full version of the bill online, click here.

SB 328 (plus)
Sen. Bev Gard, R-Greenfield, introduced this bill to give Superior and Circuit Court judges the power to issue a civil penalty up to $1,000 for intentional violations of the Open Door Law or Access to Public Records Act. The bill is assigned to Senate Corrections, Criminal and Civil Matters Committee, chaired by Sen. David Long, R-Fort Wayne.

Update (4/18/05): Bill died for lack of a committee hearing in the Senate.

For a full version of the bill online, click here.

SB 35 (needs work)
Sen. Jeff Drozda, R-Westfield, proposes the ability of the public to seek a recall of elected or appointed town or school board members who violate state’s access laws. The bill only applies to town and school boards, and not all public officials. Also, it puts enforcement power in the hands of the Public Access Counselor, whose office is now dedicated to education and mediation. The bill has been sent to the Senate Rules and Legislative Procedure Committee, chaired by Sen. Bob Garton, R-Columbus.

Update (4/18/05): Bill died for lack of a committee hearing in the Senate.

For a full version of the bill online, click here.

SB 310 (plus)
Sen. Bev Gard, R-Greenfield, introduced this bill to close serial meetings loophole. The bill also requires any public agency board members, absent General Assembly approval, to attend meetings in person to participate (no more phone conferences). Bill assigned to Senate Governmental Affairs and Interstate Cooperation Committee, chaired by Sen. Marvin Riegsecker, R-Goshen.

Update (4/18/05): Bill was passed in the Senate 49-0. It was assigned to the House Local Government Committee, where it died for lack of a hearing.

For a full version of the bill online, click here.

SB 423 (needs work) – Sen. Murray Clark, R-Indianapolis, is author of bill that would allow for forfeiture of public retirement pensions in the event of misconduct in office. Except for final determination, records and proceedings closed to public. Sen. Clark is considering an amendment to open up the process to some public scrutiny. Bill was assigned to Senate Pensions & Labor Committee, chaired by Sen. Joe Harrison, R-Attica.

Update (4/18/05): Sen. Clark amended bill to satisfy public access concern. Bill died on Senate floor with a 24-24 vote on March 1.

For a full version of the bill online, click here.


2004 in Review

Take a look back at some of the legislative issues ICOG tracked during the 2004 session:

PUBLIC RECORDS/Child abuse and fatalities (H.B. 1268)
Like many states, Indiana may be considering a change in child protection laws. Two Democratic legislators are discussing the possibility of opening these cases to public scrutiny-particularly in the case of fatalities. The secrecy provided to public agencies is often found to protect bureaucracies that sometimes fail to protect children. No bill has yet been filed. WTRH-TV, Channel 13, originally broke a series of stories about neglect and death in foster care homes that most Marion County media have been following as a failure of the Family and Social Services Agency.

Update (3/10/04):
The bill died, but its language was inserted into HB 1194 during conference committee. The language was approved by both the House and Senate and sent to the Governor.

Update (2/12/04): The bill is still before the House. It has been read twice and amended. A third reading is expected.

Update (1/24/04)
: The bill’s author, Rep. David Orentlicher (R-Indianapolis), presented the bill. It was passed out of the House Judiciary Committee in mid-January and now goes before the full House for possible amendment and then a vote on passage.

PUBLIC MEETINGS/Serial meetings (S.B. 319)
Using the telephone to make public policy decisions would be prohibited if Sen. Bev Gard, R-Greenfield, has her way. The Greenfield City Council, or at least five of its seven members, decided to change the proposed city budget that had been published for public review. In a series of telephone meetings to one another, five council members decided to make a change. Two others were unaware any changes had been made. Gard would like to protect the open meetings law so elected officials cannot circumvent it through a series of phone calls.

Update (3/10/04): The bill died, but Sen. Beverly Gard submitted Senate Resolution 36, which requests a summer interim legislative committee look into the impact of communications technology on the state’s Open Door Law and Access to Public Records Act. That resolution was approved by the Senate. Whether the request will be carried out will be up to the Legislative Council, made up of the Senate and House leadership.

Update (2/12/04): The bill will not recieve a hearing during this legislative session.

Update (1/24/04): The bill has not yet received a hearing in the Senate Governmental Affairs & Interstate Cooperation Committee.

PUBLIC RECORDS/Election law Senate (S.B. 37)
The bill, introduced by Sen. Sue Landske, R-Cedar Lake, would open up election materials to public scrutiny. Under current law, election materials (poll books, absentee ballot envelopes, etc.) are sealed for 22 months-then can be destroyed without any notice. Similar legislation has passed the Senate several times but no hearings have ever been held in the Indiana House of Representatives. With growing election misdeeds in Indiana cities and towns, legislators might provide a more receptive audience this year.

Update (3/10/04): The bill died, but its language was inserted into SB 72 during conference committee. The language was approved by both the House and Senate and sent to the Governor.

Update (2/12/04): Sen. Allie Craycraft (D-Selma) joined the bill as a co-author and then presented it before the Senate Elections & Civic Affairs Committee. The bill was unanimously approved by the committee. It next moves to the full Senate for hearing.

Update (1/24/04): The bill is scheduled for a hearing on Monday, Jan. 26, in the Senate Elections & Civic Affairs Committee.

PUBLIC MEETINGS/Executive session (S.B. 351 & H.B. 1248)
An Indiana appeals court, in Baker vs. Middlebury, has extended the reach of city and town officials to take action in executive, or non-public, meetings. Under current law, there are only a few reasons that government can meet in closed sessions. When the Middlebury town marshal was fired in an executive session and replaced (an act he wasn’t expecting), he sued. Unfortunately, the appellate court sided with the town and said they could take such an action. The Indiana Supreme Courtrefused to hear the case, providing access advocates only a legislative route for repairs to the law.

Update (2/12/04): The bills will not be heard this session.

Update (1/24/04):The two bills — S.B. 351, authored by Sen. Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis), and H.B. 1248, authored by Rep. Dennie Oxley (D-English) — have been filed. They have not received a committee hearing yet.