Prompted by a request from a local deputy prosecutor, State Rep. Mike Karickhoff is hoping to restrict public access to local property and tax information on the Internet.
Specifically, Karickhoff wants to establish some means by which those connected with law enforcement can have their names and addresses stricken from government-run databases, like the one Howard County government uses.
All Howard County property records are online, through software called Beacon, administered by the Indianapolis-based consulting firm Schneider Corp.
The records, used by real estate professionals, homeowners associations, prospective homebuyers, planning officials and anyone else curious about a particular property, show a property's sales history, liens against the property, tax assessments and other data.
Kokomo Police Chief Rob Baker said he supports the legislation, saying criminals could use the data to target officers and their families.
He said Wednesday he received a recent call from another officer, who was also named Rob Baker, who warned Baker that an individual in another jurisdiction was pursuing a vendetta.
According to the KPD chief, the other Rob Baker was calling out of concern the disgruntled individual might target the wrong Rob Baker, based on information taken from the Internet.
Baker said he didn't have additional information on the disgruntled individual, including whether or not the person was incarcerated.
Karickhoff's legislation, HB 1219, passed out of the House Local Government Committee Thursday, after representatives from the Indiana State Sheriff Association and the Fraternal Order of Police testified in favor. The chair of that committee, State Rep. Timothy Neese, R-Elkhart, is signed on as a co-author of the bill.
Steve Key, attorney for the Hoosier State Press Association, didn't put the bill initially on the list of legislation the group will oppose this session, but indicated this week the association will oppose it, on the grounds it would have unintended effects on the flow of information.
Typically the press association, which lobbies on behalf of Indiana newspapers, opposes bills which could have a chilling effect on the public's access to records, information and public meetings.
Wednesday, Key said he'd talked to Karickhoff about the bill, and said he anticipated testifying against the bill today.
It's troubling, but doesn't close off access to the information totally," Key said in response to an emailed question. "Not in favor of it."
Thursday, Karickhoff said the bill would have less of an impact on public information than a similar bill offered last year.
That bill would have required county officials to remove not only judges, prosecutors and police, but also a host of other groups from databases. Karickhoff said his bill would require each individual law enforcement official to petition to have their names removed from the database.
Copyright 2013 - Kokomo Tribune, Ind.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service