Bill would put public notices in free papers


Legislation giving certain free publications the authority to publish public notice advertising has resurfaced.

HSPA opposes language in H.B. 1017, filed by Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel. The bill matches his effort in the Indiana House last year.

HSPA objected to language in the 2015 bill that would allow the publisher of a free-circulation newspaper to use one standard mail permit to service multiple mastheads. The move is an attempt to be the higher-circulation newspaper of record in towns served by paid-circulation newspapers.

Sen. Jim Buck, R-Kokomo, initially blocked Torr’s bill last year until lawmakers agreed in a conference committee report for S.B. 369 to include language that limited free newspapers to one office per standard mail permit.

This matches the U.S. Postal Service requirement for paid-circulation newspapers. The rule is one newspaper office per postal permit.

Both the Indiana Senate and House passed S.B. 369, but Gov. Mike Pence vetoed it due to an unrelated part of the bill.

HSPA asked Torr to accept the language that was passed by the legislature last year, but he declined. His view is that since paid-circulation newspapers can be eligible for public notice advertising throughout the county, beyond the city or town where their office is located, free-circulation newspapers should have the same ability.

He doesn’t agree with the General Assembly’s longstanding stance that paid-circulation newspapers should have preference across the county for publication of public notices. With paid newspapers, citizens are more likely to see notices for two reasons:

• They have subscribed to the newspaper.

• Notices will be delivered in a timely manner by the postal service.

Paid newspapers must have a periodicals permit, which is treated like first-class mail. Free-circulation products are treated like junk mail and delivered as the post office sees fit.

H.B. 1017 has been assigned to the House Government and Regulatory Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Kevin Mahan, R-Hartford City.

HSPA has voiced its concern with Torr’s language to Mahan.

Mahan gave Torr’s bill a hearing last session. HSPA doesn’t yet know if the bill will get a hearing this year.

HSPA also alerted Buck to the concern with H.B. 1017.