Ag gag legislation tries for early start


Although the 2014 General Assembly’s scheduled opening Jan. 6 was delayed by winter weather, HSPA already has identified some bills it will oppose and support.

S.B. 101, authored by State Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, is this year’s Senate version of the ag-gag bill.

Prior to the storm, S.B. 101 was scheduled for a Jan. 7 hearing before the Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee, chaired by State Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis.

Holdman’s current bill doesn’t mention the taking of photos or videos like in last year’s ag-gag effort, but under the proposal the unauthorized taking of images could be included as an element for an arrest for criminal trespass.

The legislation would allow agribusiness operators to set what is and isn’t illegal to photograph based on what they included in a warning sign posted on the property. The bill also would allow for a criminal charge if the posting of the photos or video created a pecuniary loss for the agribusiness.

HSPA opposes the concept of the bill, another attempt to stifle the First Amendment expression of individuals critical of agribusiness practices.

Judging from a hearing Jan. 8, S.B. 101 will be amended before it receives a vote in the Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee. Young allowed more than an hour of testimony.

HSPA executive director and general counsel Steve Key told the committee that the bill constituted poor public policy in that it would chill public debate on agricultural issues such as food safety, environmental safety, treatment of animals and labor safety.

Attorney Dan Byron of Bingham Greenebaum Doll, representing the Indiana Broadcasters Association, told the committee that the original language in H.B. 101 was vague to the point of being unconstitutional.

Holdman was the author of last year’s ag-gag bill, S.B. 373, which died on the House floor on the final night of the 2013 legislative session. Indiana was one of 11 states where legislators filed ag-gag bills. None of those states passed such legislation.

Joining HSPA in opposing S.B. 101 will be a coalition of advocates for food safety, prevention of cruelty to animals, environmental safety and other media entities.

Another bill HSPA is monitoring is S.B. 37, introduced by State Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel.

This bill eliminates exceptions to Indiana’s do-not-call law, including allowing calls made by newspaper personnel or volunteers to sell subscriptions.

HSPA worked out the exception with then-Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter when the do-not-call law was enacted.

The exception was supported because the attorney general had not received complaints about newspaper calls compared to the proliferation of telemarketing calls that led to national and state do-not-call laws. HSPA opposes the elimination of this newspaper-industry exception.

HSPA is checking with the office of current Attorney General Greg Zoeller to see if the office receives complaints about newspaper subscription calls.

HSPA likely will support S.B. 19, filed by State Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford.

This bill appears to make court decisions concerning paternity, custody and child support more transparent by removing statutory confidentiality for court records involving those issues. Co-authors are State Sens. Joe Zakas, R-Granger, and John Broden, D-South Bend.

HSPA also will support S.B. 64, the refiling of legislation by State Sen. Brent Waltz, R-Greenwood, that would prohibit the downloading of cell phone information by police without a court order.

In 2013 the Senate passed Waltz’s similar bill (S.B. 156) 49-0, but it died in the House for lack of a committee hearing.