An interesting juxtaposition in the Evansville Courier Press. The brief opinion notes the focus on property taxes obscuring legislation of less magnitude. Then it mentions one of the lesser bills that limited government’s ability to charge for labor in responding to a public records request.
State Rep. Steve Stemler, D-Jeffersonville, was a bit perturbed that the city of Clarksville, Ind., continued to charge 8 cents in labor as part of its copying fees. He should have been. In the 2007 session, wording prohibiting local governments from including labor and overhead in copying fees was inadvertently removed from the Indiana Code.
Lawmakers this session reinstated that wording to the Access to Public Records Act by a 95-0 vote in the House and a 46-0 vote in the Senate, and Gov. Mitch Daniels signed it into law.
If copying fees aren’t limited to the actual cost, government agencies would price public information out of reach.
It’s perfectly rational to require that governmental entities provide copies of their records to interested citizens. It’s even rational to subsidize the cost of providing those records. But we should recognize that this is an unfunded mandate by the General Assembly on other units of government. There are labor costs involved in responding to these requests, even if those costs are not charged to the requesting citizen. And, for citizens concerned about taxation, it’s worth noting that this is an extra service provided by units of government at taxpayer expense. And, for state lawmakers who like to pretend that the recent spike in property taxes was caused by out-of-control local spending, it’s worth noting when the State is the cause of increased local spending.