Lawmakers push public notices back and forth


HSPA is working to keep a bill alive in the Indiana Senate that would preserve the publication of budget hearing notices.

S.B. 288, authored by State Sen. Sue Glick, R-LaGrange, passed out of the Senate Local Government Committee with a 6-0 vote.

Usually this sends the bill to the floor for its second reading, where any senator may offer amendments. But in this case, S.B. 288 was reassigned to the Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee. Glick was told it was due to the fiscal impact of the bill.

The move means S.B. 288 must be approved in a second Senate committee hearing to stay alive.

“Having the bill recommitted was a surprise since there is no fiscal impact on the state and arguably no impact on local government separate from what the cost was in 2014,” said Steve Key, executive director and general counsel for HSPA.

“Since the legislature repealed the provision at the end of 2014, the argument was made that restoring it would have an impact for the 2,569 local government units in Indiana.”

The Legislative Services Agency last year estimated the average cost of the publication of notice of budget hearing was $166 for a local government entity.

State Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek, chairman for the Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Com­mittee, has heard from local newspaper publishers and HSPA’s allies – including the Indiana chapter of the League of Women Voters, Farm Bureau and others – but HSPA is awaiting confirmation that he will give the bill a hearing.

The six who voted for S.B. 288 in its first committee hearing were State Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport, committee chairman; and State Sens. Erin Houchin, R-Salem; Jim Buck, R-Kokomo; Doug Eckerty, R-Yorktown; Chip Perfect, R-Lawrenceburg; and Jean Breaux, D-Indianapolis.

State Rep. Bruce Borders, R-Jasonville, filed H.B. 1527, which is similar to Glick’s legislation.

H.B. 1527 has been as­signed to the House Gov­ernment and Regulatory Affairs Committee, chaired by State Rep. Kevin Mahan, R-Hartford City. With Glick’s bill possibly moving in the Senate, Mahan may decide to pass on H.B. 1527 and wait for the approval of S.B. 288.

Negative-impact bills

Meanwhile, HSPA is dealing with several bills that would negatively impact public notice advertising:

• H.B. 1610, authored by State Rep. Jud McMillin, R-Brookville, would basically eliminate the publication requirements for government agencies – replacing newspaper publication with each government unit’s website.
HSPA’s Key had a good conversation with McMillin about the public support for publication – as documented in the American Opinion Research poll of Hoosier attitudes concerning public notice advertising. The poll showed 64 percent of adult Hoosiers support the publication requirement even when told the costs can be thousands of dollars for government units.

Key left the meeting with the impression that McMillin would not push Mahan for a hearing on his bill.

• S.B. 530, authored by State Sen. Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, would place a requirement that newspapers have paid circulation of at least 1 percent of a governing unit’s population to be eligible to publish public notices.

Key told Bray that such a rule would result in at least one county having no newspaper eligible to publish county notices. Publication would be replaced by posting notices in public places in that situation.

Key is working with Bray on an alternative threshold – a higher minimum paid circulation number. HSPA believes S.B. 530 will get a hearing in the Local Government Committee.

• S.B. 450, authored by State Rep. Rick Niemeyer, R-Lowell, would remove property descriptions from publication of notices of tax sales. Niemeyer cites the cost of publication in Lake County as the basis for his change.

HSPA has pointed out that there are numerous provisions in state law authorizing the county to recoup its costs of a tax sale, including advertising, so there should be no cost to Lake County. S.B. 450 also is assigned to the Senate Local Government Committee.

• S.B. 500, authored by State Sen. Pete Miller, R-Brownsburg, is a wish list of statutes that a group of school officials would like to see disappear or change. Included in the 300-plus page bill were changes to the Open Door Law and Access to Public Records Act and an attempt to replace publication of school notices with posting on school websites.

In a Senate Education and Career Development Committee meeting, chaired by State Sen. Dennis Kruse, D-Auburn, Miller agreed to an amendment that deleted the attempt to circumvent the public notice advertising law.

HSPA continues to seek an additional amendment that would restore the publication requirement for the annual school performance report.

This popular notice reportedly has impacted property values in Hamilton County as families use the results to target neighborhoods with the best schools. Miller indicated that he wanted to work with HSPA on improving S.B. 500.