“Sunshine” is the term used to describe the effort to promote open government and freedom of information.
In light of the fact that Sunshine Week is observed in March, we’d like to shed a few rays of light on pieces of legislation that deal with transparency and received some attention from the Indiana General Assembly this session.
The following were bills tracked by the Hoosier State Press Association, of which KPC Media Group is a member:
• House Bill 1019 addresses the public’s ability to obtain copies of video from police body and cruiser cameras. HSPA believes the bill will greatly improve the public’s ability to access police video.
What is essential is an amendment to the bill that would require a hearing within 30 days for a judge to rule whether the video be public. In addition, instead of the public having to prove why a video should be released, the burden of proof for denying release moves to the law enforcement agency involved.
The bill was adopted by the Senate and signed by the House speaker on March 10.
• Senate Bill 380 allows members of local economic development commissions to participate in meetings and vote remotely via electronic means, which creates an exception to a standard from 2012. The initial standard addressing remote participation still required a quorum to be physically present for a vote to take place.
While the bill would provide convenience for EDC board members who have busy schedules, the HSPA is concerned that a similar concern is not being expressed for anyone in the public “who will still have to clear time in their busy schedules to drive to a meeting on a controversial project,” HSPA president Steve Key said.
The question remains whether this type of legislation would open the door to allowing all local governing bodies to vote remotely.
The bill was signed by the Senate president pro tempore and signed by the House speaker on March 9.
These were just two issues this session that dealt with transparency, but they serve as a reminder that keeping an eye on transparency in government is ever a moving target for the general public.