By Steve Key
Hoosier State Press Association
A recap of HSPA’s work in the 2014 Indiana General Assembly:
Public notice advertising
Only one of six anti-public notice advertising bills was passed by the 2014 General Assembly.
That bill, H.E.A. 1385, authored by Rep. Mike Speedy, R-Indianapolis, and sponsored by Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis, will allow storage facilities to forego publication of notice of the sale of abandoned property. They can advertise in any other “commercially reasonable” manner.
HSPA assumes that would include something as nondescript as a storage facility’s website and given the option of free notification or paying a newspaper to publish notice, newspapers should expect the notices to disappear from their pages.
The House passed the bill 87-5. Rep. Justin Moed, D-Indianapolis, became a co-author.
HSPA testified against the bill in the Senate Civil Law Committee, chaired by Sen. Joe Zakas, R-Granger, but it passed 8-0. The Senate then passed it 44-3 and Sens. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City, and Jim Arnold, D-LaPorte, became co-sponsors.
The House then concurred on the Senate amendments, 65-15. Gov. Mike Pence signed the bill into law on March 25.
The five anti-public notice advertising provisions that failed were:
H.B. 1033, authored by Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel, which would have put mailed free publications on equal status as newspapers in eligibility to carry public notice advertising. Rep. Torr was carrying this bill for Brian Kelly, publisher of The Currrent, a free publication located in Carmel.
HSPA thought it had a deal with Torr that would have put The Current into position to be the publication for notices in Carmel if Torr dropped the bill, but Torr changed his mind after HSPA had put the pieces into place to make the deal happen.
HSPA then testified against the bill before the House Government and Regulatory Affairs Committee, chaired by Rep. Kevin Mahan, R-Hartford City, but it was passed 11-1. The House then passed the bill, 86-8.
Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, was the bill’s sponsor. It was assigned to the Senate Local Government Committee chaired by Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport. Sen. Head decided not to give H.B. 1033 a hearing.
Sen. Head will be one of three legislators HSPA involves in a statewide survey of public attitudes toward the publication of public notice advertising.
Language in H.E.A. 1206 that would have eliminated the requirement that out-of-state insurance companies publish statements of their financial condition in Indiana newspapers. The bill was authored by Rep. Matt Lehman, R-Berne, for the state Department of Insurance.
But it was Rep. Lehman at HSPA’s request who took the provision out of the bill in conference committee to allow HSPA an opportunity to work out an agreement with the DOI before the 2015 legislative session.
H.B. 1101, authored by Rep. Rick Niemeyer, R-Lowell, which would have eliminated the listing of properties included in notices of county tax sales. After conversations with HSPA, Rep. Tim Neese, R-Elkhart, who chairs the House Local Government Committee agreed not to give the bill a hearing. Rep. Niemeyer agreed not to push the bill when HSPA agreed to work with him on the issue of unsaleable properties included in the tax sale lists.
Two other bills (H.E.A. 1266 and S.E.A. 367) would have eliminated the publication of local government budgets as part of the notice of budget hearing. A compromise between Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek; and Rep. Dan Leonard, R-Huntington, will preserve the requirement for one year. The two legislators were the authors of the two bills filed at the request of the state Department of Local Government Finance.
The one-year compromise buys HSPA time to convince the General Assembly that the public would prefer the information published in newspapers rather than a posting on the state DLGF website, which is the alternative to publication requested by DLGF commissioner Micah Vincent.
Sen. Hershman had pushed for a two-year delay while Rep. Leonard sought an immediate end to the budget publication in the two bills. The one-year delay was their conference committee compromise in H.B. 1266 while the language was removed from the Senate bill by its conference committee.
HSPA testified against both bills in their original chamber’s committee hearing.
H.B. 1266 was passed by the House Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Rep. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, 16-5 and the House 82-12. S.B. 367 was passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee, chaired by Hershman, and by the Senate, 44-4.
Rep. Greg Porter, D-Indianapolis, attempted to delete the offending language with a 2nd reading amendment to H.B. 1266 on the floor of the House, but that amendment was defeated.
HSPA believes the DLGF provision was pushed at least in part as an effort to relieve the state agency of the burden of denying budget based on a failure by local governments to properly publish notices of the budget hearing.
“I believe they decided they didn’t want to be the bad guys and tell local entities that they would have to live with last year’s budget because they didn’t do the notice correctly,” said Steve Key, HSPA executive director and general counsel.
Otherwise, you have to buy the argument that placement of notices on a website that averages 2,258 unique visitors a week provides better notice than newspapers, which are read by 87 percent of Hoosiers, according to HSPA’s last readership survey.
The DLGF averages 24.5 visitors per county per week, but Leonard would argue that is preferable to newspaper publication of the notice. Key said many legislators mistake special interest notice (notice that insiders know where to find) for public notice (notice put into the hands of Hoosiers).
Sen Hershman joins Sen. Randy Head as one of the legislators who will be consulted on the HSPA survey concerning public notices. They will be joined by Rep. Mahan from the House.
Public access to information
H.B. 1306, authored by Rep. Bill Friend, R-Macy, would have changed the Access to Public Records Act in two ways.
It gave the option to a records requester to have an electronic record delivered in that format (Word document or Excel spreadsheet, for examples). Current law gives the agency the option to require the requester to drive to the office and get a paper copy.
It creates a search fee if a voluminous records request requires more than two hours of search time to find the records. HSPA worked with Speaker of the House Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, to determine the parameters of the search fee provision.
HSPA testified in favor of the bill before the House Government and Regulatory Affairs Committee, chaired by Rep. Kevin Mahan, R-Hartford City. The bill was approved by the committee, 11-0, and the House, 86-8.
The sponsor was Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle. The bill was assigned to Senate Local Government Committee, chaired by Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport. The bill was passed out of committee, 7-3, and by the Senate, 38-10.
Sen. Holdman though did add a 2nd reading amendment that gave citizens the right to use cell phones to take photos of public records that contained their name without having to pay a copying fee. The House Republicans objected to this provision that they felt was unneeded. The Senate Republicans felt it should be included and the bill died in conference committee.
Other public access legislation that HSPA followed includes:
S.E.A. 118, authored by Sen. Pete Miller, R-Avon, requires redevelopment commissions to get approval of any financial obligations involving public funds by the appropriate county or city council.
HSPA testified in favor of this legislation as an improvement on government transparency of the activities of redevelopment commissions.
The bill was passed out of the Senate Tax & Fiscal Policy Committee, chaired by Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek, and the Senate by a 48-0 vote. Co-authors were Sens. Greg Walker, R-Columbus, Jim Smith, R-Charlestown, and Mark Stoops, D-Bloomington.
The sponsors are Reps. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, Steve Braun, R-Zionsville, and Kreg Battles, D-Vincennes. The bill passed out of the House Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Rep. Brown, and the House 71-27.
The Senate concurrence vote was 28-20. Gov. Pence signed the bill March 26.
S.B. 418, authored by Sen. Jim Smith, R-Charlestown, was a bill very similar to S.B. 118 concerning transparency for redevelopment commissions. With S.B. 118 moving, this bill died without a hearing in the Senate Appropriations Committee. Sen. Smith became a co-author of S.B. 118, which became law.
H.E.A. 1319, authored by Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis. This education bill became the home for language that changes the timing of publication of annual school performance reports from January to March. HSPA and the state Department of Education sought the deadline change because the current timeframe was unworkable – being missed by the DOE for five straight years.
Sponsor Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, added the HSPA-suggested change in the Senate. Rep. Behning did not oppose the change. The amended bill was approved by the Senate, 48-0. There was a conference committee report on this bill that was passed by both chambers nearly unanimously. Gov. Pence signed the bill into law on March 24.
S.E.A. 19, authored by Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, removes confidentiality for court records involving paternity issues, custody issues, parenting time issues, child support issues or issues involving children of unwed parents in juvenile court. Co-authors were Sens. Joe Zakas, R-Granger; John Broden, D-South Bend, and Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago.
The bill was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee chaired by Steele and the Senate, 42-1.
House sponsors were Reps. Greg Steuerwald, R-Danville, and Jud McMillan, R-Brookville. It was passed by the House Judiciary Committee chaired by Steuerwald and the House 93-2 without any amendments. Gov. Pence signed the bill March 13.
S.E.A. 1347, authored by Rep. Peggy Mayfield, R-Martinsville, included a provision to allow county clerks to keep certain records in electronic, not paper, format if the public had electronic access to those records.
HSPA suggested an amendment to clarify that the requirement would be the public could inspect and obtain an electronic copy of the document, but not necessarily through remote access. Rep. Mayfield successfully offered the amendment in the House Court and Criminal Code Committee.
The bill was approved by the committee and the House, 89-0.
The sponsor was Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford. The Senate passed it 44-0. There was a conference committee, but its report was unanimously approved by both chambers. Gov. Mike Pence signed the bill on March 24.
S.B. 261 and H.E.A. 1196, respective authors are Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek, and Rep. Randy Truitt, R-Lafayette, would allow construction manager proposals for public projects.
HSPA suggested an amendment to ensure that records concerning the awarding of subcontracts would be available for inspection and copying by the public was accepted by both Sen. Hershman and Rep. Truitt.
S.B. 261 was approved by the Senate Commerce, Economic Development and Technology Committee and the Senate 48-0. H.B. 1196 was approved by the House Employment, Labor and Pensions Committee and the House, 58-38.
S.B. 261 died in the House Employment, Labor & Pensions Committee, chaired by Rep. Doug Gutwein, R-Francesville. H.B. 1196 with Hershman as sponsor was assigned to the Senate Commerce, Economic Development & Technology Committee, chaired by Sen. Jim Buck, R-Kokomo. It was passed by the Senate, 45-2.
There was a conference committee report that was passed nearly unanimously by both chambers. Gov. Pence signed H.B. 1196 into law on March 25.
S.B. 411, authored by Sen. Frank Mrvan, D-Hammond, includes multiple provisions intended to make economic development incentive actions, particularly those of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation more transparent and accountable. The bill died for lack of a hearing before the Senate Commerce, Economic Development and Technology Committee chaired by Sen. Jim Buck, R-Kokomo.
H.B. 1042, authored by Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus. This bill would have allowed school districts to attach cameras to school buses to catch and fine drivers who ignore the stop sign when children are being loaded or unloaded. HSPA suggested an amendment to delete a provision making the photos secret. Rep. Smith agreed and the language became a part of the bill in its House Roads & Transportation Committee.
It was approved by the House, 72-22. Sen. Greg Walker, R-Columbus, was the sponsor. The bill was approved by the Senate Education and Career Development Committee, chaired by Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, but did not emerge from the Senate floor.
S.E.A. 208, authored by Sen. Greg Walker, R-Columbus, will allow the state Attorney General to keep confidential certain information about individuals who have unclaimed property to protect against identity theft. HSPA didn’t object to the concept.
The bill was passed by the Senate, 48-0. The House passed it 96-0 with Rep. Bob Heaton, R-Terre Haute as sponsor. The Senate concurred to House changes, 49-0 and Gov. Pence signed it into law March 24.
S.E.A. 344, authored by Sen. Lindel Hume, R-Princeton, establishes the division of school building physical security and safety within the department of education. The bill included language making certain building security information on a website confidential. HSPA requested an amendment narrowing what would be kept secret. The amendment was accepted by the House Education committee chaired by Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, who was the bill’s sponsor.
The amended bill was approved by the House, 96-0. The Senate concurred 48-1. Gov. Pence signed the bill March 24.
H.B. 1169, authored by Clyde Kersey, D-Terre Haute, would have amended the definition of meeting in the Open Door Law to include business conducted via email. HSPA would have supported the idea of dealing with public business conducted on private email accounts if the bill had moved forward. It died for lack of a hearing in the House Government and Regulatory Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Kevin Mahan, R-Hartford City
S.B. 193, authored by Sen. Jean Breaux, D-Indianapolis, also would have amended the meeting definition in the Open Door Law to deal with email exchanges. The bill died for lack of a hearing in the Senate Local Government Committee, chaired by Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport.
H.B. 1373, authored by Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, would have made appraisal and relocation documents prepared by the land acquisition division of the Indiana Department of Transportation accessible public records after negotiations are terminated or property is acquired. HSPA would have supported this idea if the bill moved. It died for lack of a hearing in the House Government and Regulatory Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Kevin Mahan, R-Hartford City.
H.B. 1234, authored by Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Lizton, concerns property tax matters and included a provision that misused the term public record. HSPA offered an amendment to Rep. Thompson to correct the error. The amendment became moot when the section in question was deleted from the bill by Thompson.
H.B. 1133, authored by Rep. Shelli VanDenburgh, D-Crown Point, would have required a local elected official to file annual statements of gifts received by the elected official or a member of his/her immediate family from persons seeking a business relationship with his/her public agency. HSPA would have supported this concept, but the bill died for lack of hearing in the House Government and Regulatory Affairs Committee chaired by Rep. Kevin Mahan, R-Hartford City.
S.B. 191, authored by Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury, attempted to deal with a conflict between members of the Elkhart city council and its mayor over records access with a change in the Access to Public Records Act. Sen. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City, was a co-author. The bill died for lack of a hearing in the Senate Local Government Committee chaired by Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport.
S.B. 101, authored by Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, was introduced as an “ag-gag” bill infringing on the First Amendment by creating the possibility of criminal trespass for the taking of photos of agricultural operations without the permission of the owners.
HSPA, Indiana Broadcasters Association, Hoosier Environmental Council, Humane Society of Indiana, Citizens Action Coalition and others testified against the bill during its hearing before the Senate Corrections & Criminal Law Committee, chaired by Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis.
Sen. Holdman offered an amendment for the committee changing the bill to one that strengthens the criminal trespass and mischief statutes with enhanced penalties if the victim is an agricultural operation. HSPA does not oppose this language since it removed the First Amendment concerns.
The bill was passed out of the committee, 8-2, and the Senate, 41-5. Co-authors were Sens. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, Richard Young, D-Milltown, and Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn.
Reps. Jud McMillan, R-Brookville, sponsored the bill, which was assigned to the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. Greg Steuerwald, R-Danville – the bill’s co-sponsor. The House passed the bill, 73-25 with no amendments. Gov. Pence signed it on March 14.
H.B. 1191, authored by Rep. Bill Friend, R-Macy, was the house version of “ag-protection” or “ag-gag” depending on one’s point of view. When HSPA raised its concern about possible First Amendment infringement, Rep. Friend said it had been decided to not move H.B. 1191 and see what language the Senate passed in S.B. 101.
H.B. 1191 died in the House Courts and Criminal Code Committee, chaired by Rep. Jud McMillan, R-Brookville.
H.E.A. 1009, authored by Rep. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, concerns privacy from government actions. An included provision requires law enforcement to get an order from a judge before serving a subpoena on a telecommunications carrier for someone’s phone records.
HSPA asked Rep. Koch to consider an amendment that would give a media outlet the opportunity to oppose such an order before the judge approved the subpoena request. Koch agreed and the amendment was approved on 2nd reading. The House Courts and Criminal Code Committee approved the bill 6-1. The House approved H.B. 1009 by 81-15.
The sponsor is Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford. It was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee chaired by Steele and by the Senate, 48-0. Co-sponsors were Sens. James Tomes, R-Wadesville, John Waterman, R-Shelburn, Travis Holdman, R-Markle, Michael Young, R-Indianapolis, and Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago.
The House concurred 83-6 and Gov. Pence signed it March 26.
H.E.A. 1384, authored by Rep. Mike Speedy, R-Indianapolis, would prohibit police from downloading citizens’ cell phone data without a court approved subpoena. HSPA testified in favor of H.B. 1384 to protect reporters’ sources from being revealed through this technique.
The bill was approved by the House Courts and Criminal Code Committee, chaired by Rep. Jud McMillin, R-Brookville, and the House by a 87-3 vote.
The sponsor was Sen. Brent Waltz, R-Greenwood. It was passed by the Senate Corrections & Criminal Law Committee, chaired by Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis, and the Senate 47-0 with no amendments. Gov. Pence signed the bill March 26
S.B. 64, authored by Sen. Brent Waltz, R-Greenwood, would prohibit police officers from downloading cell phone information from citizens without a judge’s order. HSPA testified in favor of this bill as a protection against the detection of an anonymous source, which would circumvent the intent of the Reporter’s Privilege (or shield law).
The bill was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, 7-0, and the Senate, 45-3.
The sponsor is Rep. Mike Speedy, R-Indianapolis. With similar bill, H.B. 1384, moving forward, S.B. 64 died for lack of a hearing in the House Court and Criminal Code Committee, chaired by Rep. Jud McMillin, R-Brookville.
S.B. 231, authored by Rep. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, offered citizens protection from law enforcement intrusion on private communications devices. HSPA testified in favor of this bill, which serves to avoid an end-run about Indiana’s Reporter’s Privilege (shield) Law during its hearing before the Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee, chaired by Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis. The bill did not emerge from the committee.
S.B. 39, authored by Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, would have eliminated all exceptions to Indiana’s Do-Not-Call Law, including a provision allowing subscription sales calls by newspaper personnel or volunteers (like the Boy Scouts as a fund-raising tool).
Sen. Delph assured HSPA that he was not targeting the newspaper exception, but had filed the bill to spark a debate about how effective the calling restrictions were.
The exception was one HSPA worked out with then Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter. The exception was supported because the AG had not received complaints about such newspaper calls, compared to the proliferation of telemarketing calls that led to national and state do-not-call laws. HSPA opposed the elimination of this newspaper industry exception.
Deputy Attorney General Matt Light said complaints the AG’s office received concerning newspaper subscription calls were less than a dozen in the thousands of complaints about telemarketing received.
The bill did not emerge from the Senate Commerce, Economic Development & Technology Committee, chaired by Sen. Jim Buck, R-Kokomo.