Mahan: Ensuring transparency in state and local government

Posted by: Samantha Holifield  | Tuesday, August 23, 2016 2:32 pm

As a state representative for District 31, I have the opportunity to represent our community in a variety of ways. Before joining the Indiana General Assembly, I worked to keep our community safe as a police officer at the Hartford City Police Department, before eventually becoming the Blackford County Chief Deputy Sheriff and then elected the Blackford County Sheriff. Since being elected to the House of Representatives, I have been able to utilize my experience in local government to ensure both local and state government works for Hoosiers.     

In 2012, I championed two pieces of legislation that clarified and modernized Indiana’s original nepotism statute, which had not been reformed since its enactment in 1941. These laws now explicitly prohibit state and local employees from directly hiring relatives. Before these laws were enacted, no law existed at the local level prohibiting government officials from hiring relatives, preventing conflict of interests or requiring public transparency.     

I currently serve as the chair of the House Committee on Government and Regulatory Reform. This past session we considered several bills that impact state and local governments, including police body camera legislation. As the author of this legislation, I worked with legislators across the aisle in both chambers to ensure we passed a comprehensive bill that addressed the needs of both private citizens and law enforcement officers. This legislation is a great example of the legislative process working. 

Police body cameras were studied in depth during the 2015 Interim Study Committee on Government, where we participated in many meaningful discussions over the course of several months. From there, I drafted legislation, brought it to the House, and then worked with the Senate and other stakeholders to refine it further. The end result was a well-vetted law—the final version passed both chambers unanimously—that provides public transparency, while also protecting the privacy rights of citizens on the recordings. For law enforcement departments that elect to have body cameras, there are now clear, commonsense guidelines on archiving the recordings. Moreover, there are now formal procedures to treat these recordings as accessible public records and provide legal recourse if someone believes they are denied access unfairly. 

This year, throughout the summer and fall months, I will be chairing the Interim Study Committee on Government. One of the main topics we are focusing on is transparency at the local level. As a state, Indiana already has a great online Transparency Portal that details the state’s expenditures at www.in.gov/itp/. To improve accountability at the local level, this committee is looking at ways for cities and towns to participate in open data programs.

Over the next few months, I will be preparing for the upcoming legislative session. I always appreciate hearing from community members and learning your thoughts on all issues. I encourage you to reach out to me at h31@iga.in.gov or 317-234-9499. You can also receive up-to-date information from me by signing up for my e-newsletter at www.in.gov/h31.   

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State Rep. Kevin Mahan (R-Hartford City) represents

portions of Blackford, Delaware, Grant and Wells counties.

A high-resolution photo of Mahan can be downloaded by clicking here.