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Indiana House Republicans: Emails To/From Lobbyists Aren't Public Records

Phil Jern

Indiana House Republicans want to shield their emails from the state public records law after citizen advocacy groups sued to access emails between a lawmaker and lobbyists. 

Attorneys argued the case before the State Supreme Court last week.

One focus of debate centered on an exemption in Indiana’s open records law for “legislative work product.”

The term isn’t defined.

An attorney for the House Republican caucus, Geoffrey Slaughter, says emails between legislators and constituents – including lobbyists – would clearly fall under that exemption.

“Documents that were created by, prepared in anticipation of, or in connection with legislation – that’s squarely what’s at issue here,” he says.

A representative of the advocacy groups, William Groth, contends the public has a right to know who is influencing legislation.

“If we slam the door of transparency to the public, how is the public going to have confidence in what this legislature does?” he asks.

There were also questions as to whether the justices can even rule on the matter.

The state Supreme Court has long held that the judicial branch can’t interfere with legislative procedures under the constitution’s separation of powers clause. 

House Republican attorney Slaughter says that applies in this case.

But Groth, representing the advocacy groups, says if that’s true, the public records law might cease to have any impact.

The justices did not announce a timetable for their ruling.

Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.
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