Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb used the first stroke of his veto pen Monday afternoon on a bill that would have allowed state and local government agencies to charge a fee to citizens for public records requests that required more than two hours of work.
In a letter to House Speaker Brian Bosma, Holcomb wrote that the legislation was “contrary to my commitment to providing great government service at a great value for Hoosier taxpayers.”
“Providing access to public records is a key part of the work public servants perform and is important from a government transparency standpoint,” Holcomb wrote. “I do not support policies that create burdensome obstacles to the public gaining access to public documents.”
The measure by Rep. Kathy Richardson, R-Noblesville, would have allowed state and local government agencies to charge the lesser of $20 per hour or the hourly wage of the employee completing the search, after the first two hours spent working on the request.
The bill required a "good faith effort" to complete the search within a reasonable amount of time but did not set out who would audit agencies or hold them accountable.
The Indiana Coalition for Open Government had urged Holcomb to veto the proposal, calling it a step to "make government less open and insufficiently accountable" by adding barriers to access.
Indiana's chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists also opposed the bill.
Holcomb said he understood the intent behind the bill and said he supported a provision that would require public agencies to provide electronic copies of public records.
“Finally, I believe there are steps that can be taken administratively to streamline and improve the process for fulfilling public records requests, and I have charged my office to examine the best ways to provide public transparency and access to public records at the highest possible value to taxpayers,” Holcomb said.
We would like to make clear that this post should not be taken to mean that our already low opinion of Eric Holcomb has changed. It has not. But when any public official does something we view as praise worthy. We are big enough to say so. We also would like to congratulate the Indiana Coalition for Open Government and the Society of Professional Journalists on their efforts to defend all our freedoms! No word on yet on what kind of input Governor Holcomb received over this bill. Not sure if he got the singing telegram or not! Word around the capitol is that Gary Welsh's ghost maybe haunting some of the lawmakers! We cannot comment on that. However it is safe to say that the influence of Gary Welsh lives on. And his influence will not end! Thank you Gary for inspiring us all here to make this a more positive state and planet.
Here is a little song to celebrate our victory: