South Bend Tribune
With the stroke of a pen, Gov. Mike Pence offered emphatic support for the public’s right to know.
Recently, Pence vetoed House Bill 1022, a bill that supporters claim improves transparency but would have in reality done the opposite. By stepping in, the governor rejected a misleading bill that was approved by near unanimous votes in both chambers.
The bill, sponsored by state Rep. B. Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, would have exempted police departments at private colleges such as Notre Dame from following the same crime reporting requirements as public colleges. It was written in the wake of ESPN’s lawsuit against Notre Dame over the issue of police records. The legislation was flawed from the start, written with the assistance of the Independent Colleges of Indiana, an advocacy group for private colleges in the state, of which Notre Dame is a member.
The bill was written as an end-around to the court case. The Indiana Court of Appeals had ruled that police departments are public agencies, even on private college campuses. But HB 1022 would have severely limited the impact of the ruling, which Notre Dame says it will appeal before the Indiana Supreme Court.
In a written statement, the governor noted that “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.”
Pence’s veto is consistent with his support as a congressman for transparency. In 2011, he introduced the Free Flow of Information Act, legislation he co-sponsored in 2005, 2007 and 2009. Pence said at the time, “As a conservative who believes in limited government, I know the only check on government power in real time is a free and independent press.”
Some may have wondered, after the controversy last year when Pence’s administration briefly proposed a state-run news agency, if the governor — a 2008 recipient of an American Society of Newspaper Editors’ Sunshine Award for his advocacy for a free press — had changed his views.
The veto re-establishes the governor’s support for the principles he espoused as a congressman. Most significantly, it turns back a piece of legislation that would have ill-served the public — and that never should have seen the light of day.