S.B. 101, which the Hoosier State Press Association believes is intended to stifle the expression of opinions concerning agricultural processes, will get a hearing 10 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 7, before the Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee.
HSPA opposes the bill authored by State Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, because of the First Amendment concerns. Holdman was the author last session of S.B. 373 – the ag-gag bill of the 2013 General Assembly.
Holdman’s bill would make the following a Level 6 felony:
• When someone commits an act prohibited by an agricultural operation posted by that entity;
• When someone trespasses on the agricultural operation and engages in conduct that causes a pecuniary loss to the owner or operator of the agribusiness or personal property located on the premises.
Steve Key, executive director and general counsel of HSPA, said the legislation would criminalize activity normally dealt with through civil actions and is designed to frighten individuals into silence who otherwise may want to share photos, videos or opinions on how agribusinesses operate and their impact on food safety, employee safety, environmental safety and/or the treatment of farm animals.
HSPA will testify against S.B. 101 on Jan. 7.
“The proponents of ag-gag legislation want to stop the taking and sharing of photos or video depicting agribusiness processes, whether it’s confined feeding operations or slaughterhouses,” Key said. “Accurate portrayals of such operations should not be criminalized.”
Key said existing laws already serve as remedies for trespass, gaining employment through false representations and libel.
The pursuit of these remedies should not be transferred from the agribusinesses owners who feel they have been victimized to the state of Indiana.
HSPA isn’t the only entity opposed to S.B. 101.
The following entities also have expressed opposition: Citizens Action Coalition, Hoosier Environmental Council, Indiana Broadcasters Association, Indiana CAFO Watch, Indiana Farmers’ Union, the Socially Responsible Agriculture Project, the American Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Humane Society of the United States.
The Jan. 7 committee is chaired by State Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis. Other committee members are State Sens. Susan Glick, R-LaGrange; Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville; Brent Steele, R-Bedford; Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville; John Waterman, R-Shelburn; Joe Zakas, R-Granger; Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago; Mark Stoops, D-Bloomington; and Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis.
Last year, 11 states considered ag-gag legislation, but in none of those bills became law.