State newspaper industry lands victories

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The 2013 General Assem­bly proved successful for HSPA and Indiana newspapers based on what state legislators did not pass.

Four bills attacking the concept of publication of public notices either died or had offending language removed from them.

The so-called Ag-Gag Bill, which would have been challenged as an infringement on the First Amendment, died in the waning hours of the session.

Speaker of the House Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, withdrew the proposed legislation, S.B. 373, from its floor debate on the final night of the assembly.

The action came after seven legislators spoke against the bill: state Reps. Pat Bauer, D-South Bend; David Niezgodski, D-South Bend; Ed Delaney, D-Indianapolis; Chuck Moseley, D-Portage; Tom Saunders, R-Lewisville; Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City; and Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington.

Bosma later said he intended to force the Senate to accept the House version of S.B. 373. That version strengthened trespass and false employment laws but did not criminalize taking photos and video of agricultural, manufacturing or mining operations without an owner’s permission.

The conference committee report on S.B. 373 made any act done on someone’s property with the intent to harm the business punishable as criminal trespass.

Steve Key, HSPA executive director and general counsel, called that form of the bill “all gag.”

Before Bosma asked Pierce to wrap up his comments so he could pull the bill from debate, Pierce explained that sharing photos taken in a restaurant of cockroaches with the advice not to eat there would be a crime under the bill.

The bill died when time ran out to craft another version of the conference committee report.

State Sen. Travis Hold­man, R-Markle, authored S.B. 373. State Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, served as co-author. State Rep. Bill Friend, R-Macy, sponsored it, joined by state Rep. Don Lehe, R-Brookston.

Holdman’s original language would have made it a crime to disseminate photos or video taken of agricultural, manufacturing or mining operations without the consent of owners.

Four bills contained anti-public notice advertisement language: S.B. 458, H.B. 1589, H.B. 1427, and H.B. 1321.

S.B. 458 died in the Senate Local Government Committee when its chairman, state Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport, decided not to call for a vote following testimony. The bill would have eliminated all publication of public notices in favor of Internet posting on government websites. State Sen. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City, authored the bill.

H.B. 1589 would have moved procurement public notices from publication to websites. It died in the House Government and Regula­tory Reform Committee when its chairman, state Rep. Kevin Mahan, R-Hartford City, also decided not to call for a vote following testimony. State Rep. David Ober, R-Albion, authored the bill.

HSPA testified against both bills.

H.B. 1427 contained a provision to eliminate the September publication of school financial reports.

A second-reading amendment voice vote on the Senate floor removed the offending public notice language.

State Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, offered the amendment, also supported by state Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn. H.B. 1427’s author, state Rep. Rhonda Rhoads, R-Corydon, filed a dissent on the bill but did not push for the publication elimination in her conference committee report.

State Rep. Matt Leh­man, R-Berne, authored H.B. 1321 for the Depart­ment of Insurance. It included language to eliminate the publication of statements of condition by out-of-state insurance companies.

Lehman removed the offending language from the bill after talking with HSPA and Department of Insurance Commissioner Stephen Robertson.