Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Bill Ending Access To Public Records Through Exorbitant Fees Reappears On Closing Day Of Session

The Indiana General Assembly lives up it to its reputation as the nation's worst legislature. On the final week of session, lawmakers have inserted into a conference committee report for SB 369 a change in the state's public records law that would essentially allow governmental entities to charge persons $20 per hour to respond to public records searches, effectively making it impossible for citizens to obtain information from their government. The Gannett-owned Indianapolis Star, which gets its marching owners from its masters in Langley, Virginia, is a proponent of this effort to shut down the public's access to public records. In particular, The Star does not want citizen bloggers to get information to matters it doesn't want the public to know about. Of course, there are some sweeteners in the bill for the public notices publications like The Star gets paid exorbitant fees to publish which nobody ever reads. The lawmakers who put their names on this bill for whom you should have nothing but utter disdain are the following:
  • Sen. Pete Miller (R-Avon)
  • Sen Jean Breaux (D-Indianapolis)
  • Sen Lonnie Randolph (D-East Chicago)
  • Rep. Dennis Zent (R-Angola)
  • Rep. Donna Schaibley (R-Carmel)
  • Rep. Todd Huston (R-Fishers)
  • Rep. David Niezgodski (D-South Bend)
  • Rep. Jerry Torr (R-Carmel)
  • Rep. Sue Errington (D-Muncie) 
The bill passed the House on a 92-5 vote. The five lawmakers voting against it are: 
  • State Rep. Ryan Dvorak (D-South Bend)
  • State Rep. Karlee Macer (D-Indianapolis)
  • State Rep. Matt Pierce (D-Bloomington)
  • State Rep. Ben Smaltz (R-Auburn)
  • State Rep. Heath Vannatter (R-Kokomo)
UPDATE: Here's the AP's report on this lousy legislation. The Star's lobbyist talks it up:
. . . . Bill sponsor Republican Rep. Dennis Zent of Angola said local governments often receive complicated requests for documents from certain individuals.
"I don't think that's a wise use of taxpayer money if that's just one individual repeatedly doing it," Zent said.
Supporters also applaud a provision that would allow a requester to receive records electronically. The search fee would apply, but the requester would not have to pay a copying cost.
Currently, an agency can refuse to provide electronic copies, forcing a requester to pick up records in person and pay a copying fee.
Hoosier State Press Association Executive Director Steve Key said the benefit of getting records in an easy format outweighs the potential negatives of a search fee.
Key said it would also save time and resources for both government agencies and records requesters.
"This is going to probably force people to be a little bit more selective when they make records requests," he said. "It will be much more of a rifle approach as opposed to a shot gun or casting a fishing net."
Democratic Rep. Matt Pierce of Bloomington criticized the measure.
"The records are created with our tax dollars; the employees and the buildings are paid for with our tax dollars. If they've got to suffer through a few people who make outrageous requests, that's kind of the price of democracy," he said . . . 
Key's been a lobbyist at the State House so long he's forgotten what good government is all about. And another old-time State House reporter who just doesn't get it.


Pete Boggs said...

This surcharge on top of taxes is something other than public service- it's unConstitutional corruption!

Anonymous said...

The word "lawmakers" is not the term I would use for the nine miserable politicians who put their names to what amounts to an act against the people's right to know. The nine anti-transparency in government legislators you list know damn well fees like this are a hindrance to the people. If we have so darn much money to simply give to Ersal Ozdemir for his Taj Mahals, there should be NO fees for public records... a bit of a straw man argument but you get the drift.

But, hell, from what I've seen and read of our Country's worst legislature where most of them are outright owned by shady contractors and corporatists and are little more than whores for what are euphemistically called "campaign donations" or attorney billings (hello Brian and Murray!!)... they probably DO want to keep the lid on as tight as they can. Maybe that's why those nine support keeping we the people in the dark.

Anonymous said...


I'm really good at this.

If you want to reclaim a little of your mojo, veto this with extreme prejudice, and talk about how Indiana government is always open to the people.

Also, fire your Public Access Counselor.

Anonymous said...

Times have changed. Once upon a time, the Hoosier State Press Association would have had every newspaper in the state stirred up about this legislation. Today, their lobbyist is talking up the legislation. Very sad.

Eric Morris said...

Gary, I moved from Oregon which is long-time one party corrupt, D edition rather than R like here. They both seem equally slimy to me, though I think our overall taxation is at least lower here. Are you specifically saying the legislature rather than both exec and leg is the dirtiest because Oregon has had a child molester and green fraudster in governor's office with no chance of a Republican ever winning a la the crooked Bayh here.

Polly62 said...

This does sound like a fairly egregious law. Why have I not heard about it on the news?

Anonymous said...

Niezg-dski used to be Pat Bauer's
driver on Pat Bauer's trips between
South Bend and Indpls, when Bauer
actually lived in South Bend. He's far from being the sharpest tool
in the shed.

Anonymous said...

Governor Pence vetoed this bill on Friday May 8th. Pence tweeted "the cost of public records searches should never be a barrier to the public's right to know."