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Bills tinker with access to public information provisions

Updated: March 7, 2013 6:39AM



INDIANAPOLIS — Three bills regarding access to public information passed the House Tuesday, with two receiving bipartisan support.

House Bill 1102, which deals with a governing body’s ability to meet in executive session when facing litigation, could expand the concept to when there are administrative law hearings.

That would apply to administrative appeals and other hearings that don’t take place in front of a trial court.

“For example, there’s an employee appeals commission,” said Joe Hoage, the Indiana Public Access counselor. “That kind of hearing would be in front of an administrative law judge, not a trial court judge.”

If the bill becomes law, local governing bodies would be allowed to meet in executive session to discuss strategy.

It also includes a provision that would specify discussions between a school corporation and a collective bargain adversaries would not be subject to the Open Door Law.

The open meetings bill received unanimous support.

Costs for requesting large amounts of public records could increase, if collecting the records takes longer than 2 hours. HB 1175 calls for the charge to equal the cost of labor for the employee conducting the search at a maximum of $20 an hour.

“This is really designed for those few cases where it’s an extremely large request,” Hoage said, “but for the average public records request, the first two hours are free.”

A provision supported by the Hoosier State Press Association also prohibits a charge on a digital copy of a document. Current law allows an agency to require the document be a paper copy that would allow the agency to collect replicating costs.

The bill was passed with a 72-27 vote in favor.

The third bill would allow police officers, prosecuting attorneys, judges and victims of domestic violence to request to have their addresses protected from public release.

Those who qualify under HB 1219 could request their names be excluded from property records displayed on government websites.

Hoage said the exemptions are specifically tailored in the language, so as not to allow a large amount of information to be hidden from the public.

All three bills will head to the Senate.



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