[r31] Making government transparency a reality (1/31/2012)

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Start Date: 1/31/2012
End Date: 1/31/2012

As a freshman legislator, I have not had the most typical experience during session. Last year was marked by a significant minority walkout, and this year has proved to be just as much – if not more – unpredictable. However, I am excited to report that last week was an extremely busy week of business.

It was full of excitement on the House Floor and in the House Committee on Government and Regulatory Reform, of which I am chairman. Three separate pieces of legislation I authored passed through committee and were then debated on the House Floor.

All of the legislation dealt with government transparency aimed at strengthening Hoosier’s confidence in all levels of government.

The first piece of legislation deals with public access laws. House Bill (HB) 1093 would institute harsher punishment for public officials and agencies that knowingly withhold or do not accommodate public record requests within a reasonable amount of time.

Government transparency is vital to the democratic process, and, while most public servants adhere to public record requests, there are some “bad actors” out there. This legislation aims at putting public employees on the same page when dealing with these requests. HB 1093 passed out of the House with a 90-4 vote and now moves to the Senate for further discussion.

The next two laws deal with conflict of interest at the local government level and nepotism at both state and local levels.

HB 1250 would eliminate nepotism in state government. The bill stipulates that relatives of state employees or elected officials may not be hired into the same state agency. This legislation would reduce the problem of state government agencies favoring employees’ relatives over other eligible candidates.

Similarly, HB 1005 addresses nepotism at the local level. Furthermore, this legislation would also prohibit local government employees from holding an elected position in a legislative or fiscal body overseeing the unit for which they work.

Both bills are currently being discussed in the House.

Before I conclude, I would like to briefly address the passage of Right to Work (RTW) legislation last week. As many of you know, HB 1001 passed out of the House with a 54-44 vote following a lengthy discussion.

I supported this legislation because it gives employees the freedom of choice in deciding whether or not to financially support a union. Furthermore, there is precedent showing us that RTW policies do not eliminate unions.

There are some reports out there suggesting that RTW will reduce the benefits, wages and safety of workers. If I thought this were true, I would not have supported this legislation. I am proud that Indiana will become a Right to Work state, and I look forward to us benefitting from this legislation.