Thursday, April 9, 2009

Progress on Open-Door Laws In Jeopardy

Representative John Bartlett (D), Chairman of the Indiana House Government and Regulatory Reform Committee, has pocketed SB 232, which would strengthen Indiana's Open Door Laws by putting forth penalties for government officials who wantonly ignore the public's right to access and require posting of meeting notices on a governmental website.

Mr. Bartlett represents District 95 which is wholly inside Indianapolis. (link to the district map) Generally, the district is within Lawrence Township, straddling I-465 with a western boundary approaching Binford Blvd., a southern boundary along E. 38th St., the northern boundary encompassing Fort Harrison State Park, and the eastern boundary just past German Church Rd.

You may contact Representative Bartlett with your comments at or 232-9600. Make sure you mention if you live in District 95.

SB 232 passed unanimously out of the Senate Local Government Committee on February 18 and unanimously out of the Senate on February 4. It was referred to Representative Bartlett's committee on March 3 and there it has sat.

Here is the Legislature's digest of the bill:
Public access issues. Provides that the court may impose a civil penalty against an officer or employee of a public agency, or the public agency for violating the public records law or the open door law of: (1) not more than $100 for the first violation; and (2) not more than $500 for any additional violations. Provides that a public agency (excluding a state agency) may provide to persons who annually request notice of meetings, notice by: (1) electronic mail (if the agency has the capacity to transmit electronic mail); or (2) posting the notice on the agency's web site at least 48 hours before the meeting (if the agency has a website). Provides that a public agency may withhold personal information from public disclosure regarding an individual less than 19 years of age who participates in an activity conducted or supervised by a state educational institution, including personal information regarding the individual's parent or guardian. Requires (rather than allows) a court to review public records in camera to determine whether redaction of the records violates the public records act. If a formal complaint is filed, requires the public access counselor to review public records in camera without redaction (excluding redacted information that is work product of an attorney) to determine whether the redaction of the records violated the access to public records act. Creates an education fund for a program administered by the public access counselor to train public officials and educate the public on the rights of the public and the responsibilities of public agencies under the public access laws.

According to an editorial in today's Indianapolis Star, Representative Bartlett remains silent on why he has pocketed this bill and refused to schedule it for hearing, even though it commands wide support and even as the clock ticks toward a deadline for bills to move out of committee.

Let's talk - to Representative Bartlett

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