The Hoosier State Press Association (HSPA) is supporting the efforts of young journalists to secure student press freedom rights in H.B. 1130, authored by Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany. The bill is supported by both the Indiana High School Press Association and Indiana Collegiate Press Association.

Five student journalists met with House Education Committee chair Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, to explain what the bill would do. HSPA believes that Rep. Behning will give H.B. 1130 a hearing this month.

HSPA testified against S.B. 285, authored by Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville, on First Amendment grounds. Sen. Tomes wants to be sure illegal protests do not impede roadways.

HSPA executive director and general counsel Steve Key argued that the bill was unnecessary and would serve as encouragement for public officials who wanted to clamp down on the public’s right to dissent.

S.B. 285 was heard in the Senate Local Government Committee chaired by Sen. Jim Buck, R-Kokomo. Sen. Buck acknowledged the presence of many who opposed the bill and the fact there were none signed up in support. Sen. Buck held the bill. If he doesn’t bring it back onto the committee calendar the bill will die.

Key also raised HSPA’s concern that S.B. 299 may violate the First Amendment. The bill authored by Sen. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, would place restrictions on drone operation. The language created a felony for the publication or posting of photos taken by drones in certain instances.

Sen. Koch is working on an amendment to address the section that concerns not only HSPA, but the Indiana Broadcasters Association.

HSPA voiced its concern with H.B. 1248, authored by Rep. Mike Karickhoff, R-Kokomo, which would have exempted “administrative functions” meetings of county commissioners from the Open Door Law.

HSPA’s Key and Rep. Karickhoff agreed that the current language vaguely defines “administrative functions.” These types of meetings are currently subject to the Open Door Law, but exempt county commissioners from giving 48-hours notice.

Key and Karickhoff agreed to discuss the language after the legislative session ends. The bill will not move this session.

HSPA testified in favor of H.B. 1272, authored by Rep. Sharon Negele, R-Attica. The bill allows local government hearings to proceed when a newspaper fails to publish the required public notice advertisement. The government unit must post the notice on its website and three places within its jurisdiction.

Key told members of the House Government & Regulatory Affairs Committee that it would not be fair to punish the local government unit for the failure of a newspaper to do its job in properly publishing a public notice.

HSPA testified on S.B. 74, authored by Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis. The bill seeks to collect information on overdose deaths. The original version added the information to the certificates of death. Key testified that a better record for capturing the information would be the coroner’s report, which already includes the coroner’s conclusion as to the cause, manner and mechanism of death.

Sen. Merritt decided to capture the data in another fashion, which relieved HSPA of its concerns with the bill.

Another bill HSPA is seeking to amend is H.B. 1036, which establishes a new process to select Marion County judges. A federal judge ruled the old process unconstitutional.

Authored by Rep. Greg Steuerwald, R-Danville, the bill creates a judicial selection committee, patterned after the state judicial nominating commission.

HSPA has identified process gaps as compared to the state commission. Rep. Steuerwald and co-author Rep. Ed Delaney, D-Indianapolis, have indicated a willingness to work with HSPA to improve the bill as it moves to the Senate.

Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, discussed his legislative ethics bill, S.B. 289, with HSPA. The bill would impose a ban on gifts from lobbyists to legislators and require lobbyists to report weekly on communications made to legislators. Key has committed HSPA to work with Speaker of the House Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, before the 2018 session on language dealing with communications with legislators and what level of access the public has to those records. HSPA has not taken a position on Delph’s bill.