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Governor vetoes legislature's try to exempt itself from sunshine law

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    NMU         INDIANA         Freedom of Information         May 15, 2001    

Governor vetoes legislature’s try to exempt itself from sunshine law

  • A concerted lobbying effort by free press advocates may have swayed the governor to strike down the proposed legislation.

Indiana Gov. Frank O’Bannon vetoed a bill to exempt the legislature from both the state’s open meetings and open records laws.

O’Bannon, a former journalist, signed the veto on May 10 after receiving protest letters and petitions from the public, as well as the local and national chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists.

As originally drafted, the bill would have exempted collective bargaining meetings from the law requiring the legislature to hold public meetings. Lawmakers then tacked on amendments to bill, including one to exempt the e-mail messages of public employees. After The Indianapolis Star requested two weeks of e-mail records from nine legislators, the bill was further amended to exempt the legislature entirely from the open records laws.

Legislators can override the veto with a simple majority vote of each house. The first opportunity for an override vote will be June 12, when the legislature convenes to correct technicalities in existing bills.

It is not known whether the legislature will take up the measure on June 12 or will let the governor’s veto stand. Ray Marcano, president of SPJ, said he understands that there is “a decent chance that the House and the Senate will override the governor’s veto,” although some lawmakers have indicated a willingness to reassess the bill.

“I believe the lawmakers in Indiana understand that this is a flat-out public relations nightmare for them, so that’s why you haven’t really heard any vitriolic comments from people who are gung-ho about taking away the rights of the citizens of Indiana,” he said.

(HB 1083) CC

© 2001 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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