2011 General Assembly: Taxes,
public notice advertising, miscellaneous

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The 2011 General Assem­bly was unusual because the major bills opposed by HSPA died early in the session along with the major initiative that HSPA hoped to pass.

That left HSPA in the position of seeking to amend or support bills primarily pushed by other interests.

Newspaper executives and editors, read about the actions your local legislators took for or against the positions voiced by HSPA on your behalf. 

Taxes

H.B. 1234, authored by Rep. David Wolkins, R-Winona Lake, would have placed a tax on newsprint used by daily newspapers that didn’t meet a threshold of recycled fiber content.

Rep. Charles Moseley, D-Portage, co-authored it.

HSPA opposed the bill for a multitude of reasons.

Bill Masterson Jr., publisher of The Times of Northwest Indiana (Munster); Vince Griffin of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce; and Steve Key, HSPA executive director and general counsel, all testified against the bill during its hearing before the House Committee on Environmental Affairs, chaired by Wolkins.

The bill died with a 5-5 vote. Voting against the bill and with HSPA were Reps. Richard Dodge, R-Pleasant Lake; Sean Eberhart, R-Shelbyville; Mara Candelaria Reardon, D-Hammond; Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington; and Dan Stephenson, D-Highland.

Voting for the bill in addition to Wolkins were Reps. Bob Morris, R-Fort Wayne; Bill Friend, R-Macy; Jack Lutz, R-Anderson; and Heath VanNatter, R-Kokomo.

Public Notice Advertising

S.B. 322, authored by Sen. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City, would have allowed government units to publish legal notices on a notice website instead of in a newspaper as a public notice advertisement. HSPA opposes this type of legislation that would effectively eliminate public notice advertising.

HSPA talked to Banks, but he was not in agreement about the value of publishing public notices in newspapers rather than on the Internet.

HSPA also talked to Sen. Connie Lawson, R-Danville, who chairs the Committee on Local Government, about the concerns. Lawson did not give S.B. 322 a hearing, which killed the bill. Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, co-authored the bill

S.B. 562, authored by Sen. Greg Walker, R-Columbus, would have allowed publication of public notice advertisements on government websites as an alternative, also effectively eliminating publication of the notices in newspapers.

HSPA informed Walker of its opposition to his bill. Walker explained that he wanted to save school districts money and not make an anti-newspaper statement.

HSPA again talked to Lawson about the concerns. She did not give S.B. 562 a hearing, which killed the bill.

H.B. 1584, authored by Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, included language that would have allowed school corporation performance and financial reports to be published on school district websites instead of published in newspapers.

HSPA talked to Behning about its opposition to the language.

Behning changed wording in the bill during its hearing before the Committee on Education, which Behning chairs, to language calling for a summer study committee on educational issues, but the bill did not emerge from its committee.

H.B. 1469, authored by Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel, concerned local government issues but included a provision making it a crime for a public official to place public notice advertising in more newspapers than required by law. Torr said he believed the language had been picked up from an existing statute but agreed it wasn’t good policy.

Lawmakers removed the language during the bill’s hearing in the House Committee on Government and Regulatory Reform, chaired by Rep. Phil Hinkle, R-Indianapolis, who became the bill’s co-author.

The bill died without a House floor vote, a victim of the House Democrats’ walkout.

H.B. 1430, authored by Rep. Jack Lutz, R-Anderson, concerned a disannexation process from school corporations. HSPA pointed out that language concerning public notice advertising in the bill didn’t conform to existing law. Lutz expressed interest in fixing the problem.

The bill died for lack of a hearing before the House Committee on Education, chaired by Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis.

S.B. 307, authored by Sen. Jim Buck, R-Kokomo, concerned public safety funding. HSPA asked Buck to consider an amendment to bring a public notice advertising provision into conformity with general principles of the law.

Buck took the amendment under consideration, but the bill died for lack of a hearing before the Committee on Tax and Fiscal Policy, chaired by Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Monticello.

Miscellaneous

H.B. 1548, authored by Rep. Ralph Foley, R-Martinsville, provides a process for recognizing money judgments obtained in other nations for the purpose of enforcement.

HSPA questioned whether the language protects newspapers from foreign libel judgment.

Foley agreed to file a dissent to insert language suggested by several Indiana media law attorneys to reinforce First Amendment protections in the bill. Sponsor Sen. Richard Bray, R-Martinsville, agreed to the change.

Unfortunately, Foley received information from House leadership that he didn’t have time to file a dissent and get the bill passed, so he allowed a motion to concur, which was approved by the House 91-0. Foley said he was willing to work with HSPA on getting the First Amendment language added in the 2012 legislative session.

H.B. 1554, authored by Rep. Dale Grubb, D-Coving­ton, concerns political persuasion polls and false political communications. The bill would create a criminal libel statute to deal with the problem. HSPA opposes the creation of a criminal libel law.

HSPA expressed its opposition to Grubb and suggested current libel laws are equipped to deal with political campaign lies.

The bill died for lack of a hearing in the House Committee on Elections and Apportionment, chaired by Rep. Eric Koch, R-Bedford. Rep. Greg Steuerwald, R-Danville, co-authored it.

H.B. 1389, authored by Rep. Bruce Borders, R-Jasonville, would have created a separate libel law for Internet postings. HSPA had a conversation about libel and the federal Communications Decency Act with Borders, who decided not to move the bill forward.

Reps. Kathy Heuer, R-Columbia City; and Eric Koch, R-Bedford, co-authored it.

The bill died without a hearing in the House Committee on Judiciary, chaired by Rep. Ralph Foley, R-Martinsville.

S.B. 384, authored by Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, concerned rules for local referendum votes on building projects. It included a provision preserving the First Amendment right for high school journalists to report or editorialize on school referendums, which HSPA supports.

The bill passed in the Committee on Appropriations, chaired by Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, before the Senate approved it 49-0.

Sens. Kenley, R-Nobles­ville, and Randy Head, R-Logansport, co-authored it.

House sponsor was Rep. Cindy Noe, R-Indianapolis.

The bill died for lack of a hearing in the House Committee on Ways and Means, chaired by Rep. Jeff Espich, R-Uniondale.

Rep. Tom Dermody, R-LaPorte, co-sponsored it.

S.B. 19, authored by Sen. Tom Wyss, R-Fort Wayne, makes it a crime to use a camera to take pictures of an individual’s private areas and print the image or post it on the Internet. HSPA worked with Glenn Shelby, who represents the Indiana Broadcasters Association, to monitor the bill to make sure the language would not create a problem for news gatherers.

The Senate Committee on Corrections, Criminal, and Civil Matters, chaired by Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, who co-authored S.B. 19, approved the bill. It then was passed by the Senate, 42-8. Sens. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, and Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury, also were co-authors.

The House passed it 92-4 without any amendments after it was approved by the House Committee on Courts and Criminal Code, chaired by Foley, who was the bill’s sponsor. Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, was the co-sponsor.

H.B. 1146, authored by Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, concerned flavored tobacco products and included an advertising prohibition. HSPA was concerned over potential liability for newspapers that might accidentally run such advertising.

Smith was receptive to HSPA’s concern, but the bill died in the Committee on Public Policy, chaired by Rep. Bill Davis, R-Portland.