The 2015 Indiana General Assembly will gavel into session Jan. 6, with passage of a two-year budget as its priority.
The preservation of the requirement that local government units publish a notice of budget hearing – including their proposed budgets and tax rates – is a priority for the Hoosier State Press Association.
State Sen. Sue Glick, R-LaGrange, committed to filing a bill to save the notice of budget hearing. As of print deadline, the bill had not yet been assigned a number.
The Indiana chapter of The League of Women Voters has announced it will join HSPA in supporting the measure to protect citizens’ right to know what government is doing or contemplating.
The long-standing requirement was made a sunset provision by HEA 1266 in the 2014 legislature. The move was initiated by the state Department of Local Government Finance in legislation authored by State Rep. Dan Leonard, R-Huntington.
Department of Local Government Finance officials argued that the notices would be more visible through publication on its website and that ending the publication requirement would save local government agencies money.
HSPA unsuccessfully argued that publication was the preference for Hoosiers, even if publication was a cost for local government units. HSPA suggested a delay in any action to allow for a statewide survey on Hoosiers’ attitudes toward the publication of public notices.
State Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek, was amenable to a two-year delay in ending the requirement to give time for the survey. Leonard was not. The compromise was one year, which set 2014 as the final year for the publication requirement.
In the summer of 2014, American Opinion Research surveyed 1,000 Hoosiers on public notice advertising and other issues.
Hershman, along with State Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport; State Rep. Kevin Mahan, R-Hartford City; and State Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel; reviewed survey questions to avoid any bias in the wording of questions.
The results confirmed HSPA arguments that Hoosiers prefer the publication of public notices, even with the understanding that their tax dollars pay for the printing of the information.
Almost two-thirds (64 percent) of Indiana citizens said government entities should be required to publish public notices, even though it may cost a public agency several thousand dollars a year.
More than half (51 percent) report reading the public notices in their local newspapers. When asked if they would be more or less likely to see public notices if posted on government websites rather than be published in newspapers, 46 percent said they would be less likely or much less likely to see them. Only 15 percent of Hoosiers said they would be more likely or much more likely to see it on those websites.
Steve Key, HSPA executive director and general counsel, is informing lawmakers of these statistics.
“In the face of overwhelming proof of Hoosier support for the publication of public notices – and the significance of informing them about the budget and tax intentions of government units – it would be extremely disappointing if legislators don’t support Sen. Glick’s bill,” Key said.