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Monday, March 17, 2014

Ind. Gov't. - This is Sunshine Week; think about what nearly became law

HB 1306, the bill which would have allowed governmental agencies to charge a $20/hour search fee for public record requests, apparently died in conference committee in the final moments of this year's legislative session.

I thought about it when reading this Fort Wayne Journal Gazette editorial Sunday, which begins by detailing recent success stories involving significant information revealed via FOIA requests.

The editorial concludes, and this is where I thought of what the impact of the $20/hour fee would have been, with:

That’s not to say all public officials cooperate. Reporter Vivian Sade is continually stonewalled by Huntertown officials, who demand FOIA requests for even the most routine meeting documents. The town council’s actions involving a proposed wastewater treatment plant, however, directly affect tax bills. With an annual budget of less than $2 million, Huntertown has spent more than $220,000 in legal and engineering fees in appealing the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s denial of a treatment plant permit.

The need for public access laws hasn’t decreased with emerging technology. In addition to creating ways to collect data on private citizens, it has created ways for government officials to hide public information or to communicate outside official channels. Updated laws are required to reflect technology, with continued vigilance and pressure on public officials to operate in full light.

Democracy exists only where government is open. Sunshine Week is a necessary reminder of the need to protect transparency.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 17, 2014 11:16 AM
Posted to Indiana Government