Lawmaker removes gag from ag statute


The 2014 General Assembly session includes several bills that have touched on the First Amendment and protection of anonymous sources.

S.B. 101, authored by State 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 taking photos of agriculture operations without the permission of owners.

The Hoosier State Press Association, 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.

Holdman listened and 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 passed out of committee 8-2 and out of the Senate 41-5.

State Rep. Greg Steuer­wald, R-Danville, will be the sponsor. The bill was assigned to the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Steuerwald.

H.B. 1191, authored by State 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 concern about First Amendment infringement, Friend said lawmakers decided not to 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.

H.B. 1009, authored by State Rep. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, concerns privacy from government actions. An included provision would require law enforcement to get an order from a judge before serving a subpoena on a telecommunications carrier for someone’s phone records.

HSPA asked Koch to consider an amendment that would give a media outlet the opportunity to oppose such an order with a judge before a subpoena can be served, to protect sources.

Koch agreed, and the amendment was approved on second 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 State Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford.

S.B. 64, authored by State 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 State Reporter’s Privilege Law, or shield law.

The bill was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee 7-0 and by the full Senate 45-3.

The sponsor is State Rep. Mike Speedy, R-Indianapolis. The bill was assigned to the House Court and Criminal Code Committee, chaired by State Rep. Jud McMillin, R-Brookville.

H.B. 1384, authored by State 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 House Courts and Criminal Code Committee approved the bill, and it passed the full House by a 87-3 vote.

The sponsor is State Sen. Brent Waltz, R-Greenwood. It was assigned to the State Senate Corrections & Criminal Law Committee, chaired by State Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis.

S.B. 231, authored by State Rep. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, offers citizens protection from law enforcement intrusion on private communications devices. HSPA testified in favor of this bill, which serves to avoid a conflict with Indiana’s State Reporter’s Privilege Law, or shield law.

The bill did not emerge from the State Senate Corrections and Criminal Committee.