INDIANAPOLIS (CN) – Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb exercised his veto power for the first time on Monday, stopping a bill that would have charged Hoosiers up to $20 per hour for public records searches that last more than two hours.
The Republican-backed measure known as House Bill 1523 would have reversed course against the state’s current law, which prohibits charging a fee for the reviewing of public records.
Specifically, the bill would have charged fees in the amount of $20 per hour or the hourly wage of the employee making the search, whichever was lower, for searches that take more than two hours.
Under the current law charging for the search is not allowed, although public agencies can and widely do charge fees for physical copies of requested records.
HB 1523 was aimed at reducing the costs for large records requests, but the Republican governor found that the law went too far.
“While I understand the intent behind the bill to offset the considerable time and expense often devoted to fulfilling public records requests, I view this proposed legislation as contrary to my commitment to providing great government service at a great value for Hoosier taxpayers,” Gov. Holcomb said in statement.
Holcomb went on to say, “I do not support policies that create burdensome obstacles to the public gaining access to public documents.”
Holcomb did support another provision in the law, which would have required public agencies to provide electronic copies of documents that were available in such a format.
This provision may have been very helpful as the state is in the midst of migrating to an e-file system where many court documents and public records are filed and stored electronically.
The issue may not be dead, however, as the Republican supermajority in the state’s Legislature could vote to override the governor’s veto.
Republicans came out in strong support of the bill, which easily passed through the state Senate with a vote of 44-3, and passed the House by a final vote of 63-27.
It is unclear if a veto override will be attempted for the bill, as former Indiana governor and current Vice President Mike Pence vetoed a similar bill in 2015 and his veto stood.
The bill was authored by Republican State Rep. Kathy Richardson.