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General Assembly

House bill aims to protect privacy

– The Indiana House passed three bills Tuesday affecting open records and government transparency, including one that will shield the addresses of police officers, judges and prosecutors in certain public databases available online.

Rep. Mike Karickhoff, R-Kokomo, said House Bill 1219 is needed to protect “those individuals who have the big target on their backs.”

It requires local officials who operate public Internet databases containing the names and addresses of property owners to establish a procedure allowing law enforcement officers to restrict access to their home addresses.

An amendment to the bill also added victims of domestic violence to the bill.

The information would still be maintained and open to the public at a county courthouse or local government office.

Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, a former police officer handling narcotics and sex crimes, gave two examples where people she arrested came to her house to threaten her. One of them involved a violent rapist who had a shootout in her front yard.

“Thank you very much for this bill,” she said.

Steve Key, lobbyist for the Hoosier State Press Association, said he is concerned the bill will grow to include all kinds of other people, such as teachers, principals, health care providers and more.

“Where do you draw the line?” he asked, saying counties will have to maintain two different databases. One will have the redactions online and the one in the office with the full information.

Key suggested property records could be needed for several reasons, including seeing if officers aren’t paying taxes or are living in houses beyond their means.

The bill passed 96-4 with all area House members in support.

A second bill would allow local officials to charge a fee for the time spent searching on public records requests. Currently, if a request takes an employee hours or days to do, the only fee that can be charged is for the copies of the records.

House Bill 1175 would give two free hours of searching. Additional hours would cost a maximum of $20 an hour, or if the hourly wage of the employee doing the search is lower.

“This is for the frequent filers that make copious requests,” said Rep. Bill Friend, R-Macy.

No one spoke against the bill, but 27 members voted against it including Rep. Dan Leonard, R-Huntington. All other area representatives supported the measure.

A third bill simply clarified that government bodies can speak to their attorneys in private session when an administrative procedure – such as a discrimination allegation – is levied. Current law covers only lawsuits. It passed unanimously.

All three pieces of legislation now head to the Senate.

nkelly@jg.net

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