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Governor vetoes university police records bill

Indiana Governor Mike Pence vetoed House Enrolled Act 1022 on Thursday saying the bill would restrict access to private university police departments.

HEA 1022:

Provides that certain records of a private university police department relating to arrests or incarcerations for criminal offenses are public records. Allows a private university police department to withhold investigatory records. Provides that the name of a crime victim in records released by a private university police department must be redacted unless the release is authorized by the crime victim. Provides that an educational institution, a governing board of an educational institution, delegated office or offices of a governing board, or an individual employed by the educational institution as a police officer have the same immunities of the state or state police officers with regard to activities related to law enforcement.

Governor Pence says the bill would have allowed private universities to have different standards for public records than public police departments.

“Throughout my public career, I have long believed in the public’s right to know and a free and independent press. Limiting access to police records in a situation where private university police departments perform a government function is a disservice to the public and an unnecessary barrier to transparency.  While House Enrolled Act 1022 provides for limited disclosure of records from private university police departments, it would limit the application of the Access to Public Records Act following the Court of Appeals decision and result in less disclosure, therefore I have decided to veto the bill. Hoosiers may be assured that my administration will always be vigilant to preserve government accountability and the public’s right to know,” Governor Mike Pence stated in a press release.

Governor Pence also cited the March 15 Court of Appeals ruling in ESPN v. University of Notre Dame which found Notre Dame's police department is a public agency under the Indiana Access to Public Records Act (APRA).

On March 1, 49 members of the Senate voted in favor of the bill. One voted against.

On March 3, 93 members of the House voted in favor of the bill with 5 excused and 2 not voting. There were zero nay votes.

State Rep. B. Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, issued the following statement

I am greatly disappointed that Gov. Mike Pence vetoed House Enrolled Act 1022 (HEA 1022), which would have created greater transparency for private university police records. HEA 1022 concerns the records of criminal acts, not accidental claims. In particular, HEA 1022 would have helped victims of rape as well as sexual assault and battery. It was never intended to influence the ESPN lawsuit against the University of Notre Dame. The Indiana Court of Appeals recently ruled in favor of ESPN. The case will next go before the Indiana Supreme Court. If the court upholds the appellate court decision, then the new law would naturally have had to be reviewed to ensure it complies with the high court’s decision.

HEA 1022 had unanimous, bipartisan support with only one vote against it during its entire journey through the Indiana House and Senate. Legislators in both chambers carefully examined the issue in public hearings and in both chambers. Unfortunately, most of the special interests who opposed the bill did not attend those committee hearings nor witness the debates on the bill in both the House and Senate. Yet, those same individuals claim the bill places greater restrictions on access to public records.

As mentioned above, criminal acts would be considered public records as would accidents with injury. However, minor accidents, with no injuries, would not require private universities to create an additional level of bureaucratic paperwork on those accidents.

I wish the governor had taken time to talk with the legislators who shepherded the bill through the process. There were as many Republicans as Democrats co-authoring and sponsoring this bill. Perhaps we could have explained to Gov. Pence that HEA 1022 protects the public’s right to know. Unfortunately, he did not find the time to consult with members of the Indiana General Assembly. Instead, Gov. Pence relied on misinformation.

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