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Changing times: Fewer call for laws on the books

May 30, 2018
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The multi-volume printed and bound sets of the Indiana Code are increasingly losing favor to the version available online. (IL Photo/Marilyn Odendahl)

Each spring, just as sure as the arrival of warmer temperatures, budding flowers and higher pollen levels, county clerks around Indiana could anticipate the arrival of a packet of DVDs plopped onto their desks.

Every shiny round disc held the complete copy — all 30 volumes — of the Indiana Code. Annually, 4,000 DVDs would be mailed to the county clerks to distribute among the local judges, agencies and elected officials in their communities. However, as DVD technology faded out of favor to no longer being included as standard equipment on computers, the discs became useless.

At the prompting of the clerks, the Indiana Legislative Services Agency is catching up with the changing times and will no longer be providing the DVDs. In addition, the agency will continue reducing the number of paper sets it prints.

LSA executive director George Angelone explained to the Legislative Council that the online version of the Indiana Code is becoming more popular. Logging on to the internet and clicking on the state statutes is now the way many access Indiana laws. The shift in personal preference coincides with the obsolesce of DVDs and is driving the movement away from print.

“With respect to paper copies, it used to be that every Indiana legislator wanted a full set of the Indiana Code at home and on their desk at work, and then every elected official, both local and state, wanted a copy,” he told the Council at its May 15 meeting. “Since then, both legislators and elected officials have started using the internet more.”

The Legislative Services Agency first posted the Indiana Code on the internet in the mid-1990s. Initially, hardly anyone visited, but page views have been growing each year and, Angelone told the council, there have been about 430,000 clicks on the Indiana Code in recent months.

Pointing to her office’s push to finish getting a 15-year backlog of case files scanned and available in an electronic version by the end of 2018, Tippecanoe County Clerk Christa Coffey said going paperless is the way of the world. She misses the printed page, but throughout her day, she searches and reads most everything on the computer.

“I’m all electronic, but I still like my paper,” Coffey said. “Sometimes, I don’t want to read it on my screen. I want a copy I can mark up.”

This year, three boxes arrived containing one complete set of the Indiana Code books which, Coffey said, will be given to the law library in the courthouse. As for DVDs, she has already told the judges not to expect them.

Distributing the DVDs had become somewhat comical during the past two years, Coffey said. When she would hand over the discs, judges would wonder aloud what they were supposed to do with them since their laptops did not have DVD players. Usually they pitched the discs into a pile.

LSA is republishing a full 30-volume set of the Indiana Code this year, Angelone said. In past years to cut costs, the agency would either just print a supplement or only replacement volumes with the updated statutes.

However, Angelone said, people were often confused about what they were receiving, and some did not understand how to use the new books. Now, the LSA is printing a fresh version “so everybody will have a clean set” and will not have to figure out which volumes to keep and which to toss.

To determine who gets a printed set, LSA is surveying legislators and officials authorized to get a paper copy. Those who want the actual set of books will get one, as will the depository libraries in the state.

Last year, Angelone said, LSA printed about 270 sets. This year, he is anticipating that number will drop to about 155 sets.

For local government offices and leaders who want a hard copy, LSA will help them download a set from the internet. If they do not have the capacity to do that, Angelone said his agency will provide them with a memory stick containing the Indiana Code and Acts at no cost.

Like Coffey, Angelone has an affection for the printed page. He noted in the 1970s, the Legislature spent a substantial amount of time and forethought on how the code would appear in print, selecting the font as well as the margin and print sizes.

Accessing the Indiana Code on the internet is easy, efficient and convenient, Angelone said, but it does not have the beauty of the print version. Although fewer paper volumes are rolling off the presses, he does not anticipate the end Indiana Code books.

“For the foreseeable future, there will be some print copies,” he said.•

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