Session ends, anti public notice ad language silenced

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As of April 24, anti-public notice advertising language had not surfaced during any conference committee meeting observed by the Hoosier State Press Association. 

As expected, Sen. Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville, announced during a conference committee hearing for his S.B. 535, that the $250 cap on public notice advertising for state and local government units would be removed from the bill. 

The cap was inserted into Sen. Boots’ bill about limits on extraterritorial powers of cities and towns, during its hearing before the House Select Committee on Government Reduction, chaired by Rep. Doug Gutwein, R-Francesville. The cap was offered as an amendment by Rep. David Wolkins, R-Warsaw. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Steve Davisson, R-Salem, did not oppose the move. 

Sen. Boots said the language had been determined to be non-germane to his bill by Senate Republican attorneys. 

The cap was opposed by the Hoosier State Press Association. 

“The cap doesn’t take into account the space needed and costs to publish different sized public notices,” said Steve Key, executive director and general counsel for HSPA. “Some notices only take a couple of column inches while others can fill several broadsheet pages in a newspaper.” 

“The logic of this language would be similar to the legislature deciding that certain car mechanics were overcharging customers and determining the remedy would be to take the average cost of an oil change and limit what mechanics could charge for any repair work to that oil change average.” 

Rep. Terri Austin, D-Anderson, attempted to remove the offending language with a 2nd reading amendment to S.B. 535, but her effort failed with a 54-39 vote against her suggestion.  Reps. Cherrish Pryor, D-Indianapolis; and Bruce Borders, R-Jasonville, spoke in favor of the amendment. 

While the cap language was removed from S.B. 535, it remained eligible for insertion into another bill’s conference committee report. HSPA worked to convince the leaders of the House and Senate to oppose such a move. 

The other language eligible for insertion during a conference committee report, was the elimination of the publication requirement for notices of sheriff’s sales that was passed by the House earlier this session. H.B. 1212 was authored by Rep. Wendy McNamara, R-Evansville. 

She testified that she saw no benefit from the publication of public notices, which she termed a subsidy for newspapers. 

The bill died in the Senate Local Government Committee, chaired by Sen. Jim Buck R-Kokomo. The vote was 5-4 against. Voting against the elimination of the publication requirement were: Sens. Sen. Ron Grooms, R-Jeffersonville; Sen. Mike Bohacek, R-Michigan City; Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn; Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis; and Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson. 

Like the $250 cap, the language from H.B. 1212 was eligible to be inserted into a conference committee report because it was passed by one of the two chambers of the General Assembly.