Lawmakers pull back on anti-public notice legislation


HSPA worked to successfully resolve two public notice issues in the final days of the 2014 General Assembly.

The publication of local government budgets accompanying the notice of budget hearings will continue for one more year, State Rep. Dan Leonard, R-Huntington, announced during the conference committee hearing for H.B. 1266. The state Department of Local Government Finance initiated the bill.

At Leonard’s urging, the Indiana House passed language that would have eliminated the requirement this year. State Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek, added a two-year sunset provision when the Senate considered the bill.

“Apparently the two legislators reached a compromise of one year,” said Steve Key, executive director and general counsel for the Hoosier State Press Association. “This gives us a year to prove to legislators that Hoosiers still prefer publication of notices in newspapers rather than posting on government websites.”

Key believes officials pushed the provision in part to relieve the state agency of denying budgets when local governments don’t properly publish budget hearing notices.

“I think 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 publish the notice correctly,” Key said.

Otherwise, one would 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 Department of Local Government Finance averages 24.5 visitors per county per week, but Leonard argues web posting is preferable to newspaper publication of the notice. Key said many legislators mistake special interest notice (notices that insiders know where to find) for public notice (notice put into the hands of Hoosiers).

In another public notice advertising matter, State Rep. Matt Lehman, R-Berne, made good on a promise to HSPA to preserve the requirement that out-of-state insurance companies publish statements of financial condition. He made that announcement during the conference committee hearing for H.B. 1206, which is the state Department of Insurance bill.

The insurance department asked for the elimination of that requirement, and the repeal of the statute was part of the introduced bill.

Lehman agreed to strike the repeal to give HSPA time to work out a solution with the state agency. In the past, the agency complained about the manpower required to deal with about 1,600 insurance companies’ notices.

HSPA will offer a proposal to relieve the agency of much of the paperwork involved.

If lawmakers agree on the bills’ conference committee reports, they will forward them for votes by the Senate and House. The final day for bill passage is March 14.