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RCFP urges Indiana governor to veto HB 1338

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  1. Freedom of Information

Update: On March 18, 2024, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb signed H.B. 1338 into law.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is urging Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb to veto a bill that would have a detrimental effect on the press and weaken government transparency across the state by undercutting the public official responsible for advising members of the public and government agencies on Indiana’s public access laws.

In a letter sent to the governor on March 13, 2024, Reporters Committee attorneys expressed concerns about two provisions of H.B. 1338, which recently passed both houses of the Indiana General Assembly.

One provision would make it easier for the governor to remove the Public Access Counselor, replacing language stating that the PAC is removable only “for cause” with language stating that the counselor would serve “at the pleasure of the governor.” A separate provision would limit the types of authorities the PAC can draw upon in issuing advisory opinions. Specifically, it would limit the counselor to the “plainly written” law and “valid opinions of Indiana courts,” despite there being limited caselaw interpreting Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act and the Open Door Law.

“Requiring the PAC to ignore certain authorities that would be of assistance in crafting its advisory opinions is not only inconsistent with how APRA and other access laws are interpreted in this state but also would make the PAC’s advisory opinions less useful to agencies and the public,” the Reporters Committee’s letter states.

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