Public notice ad bills killed in stress-filled session


The 2019 Indiana General Assembly was a stressful one for the newspaper industry as a serious effort was made to eliminate the publication requirement for notices of sheriff’s sale (mortgage foreclosure) followed by an attempt to cap all local and state public notice advertisements at $250. Both efforts were defeated, but Steve Key, executive director and general counsel, said it was a close call. 

Following is a round up of public notice advertising bills that the Hoosier State Press Association flagged for support, defeat or amendment during the legislative session: 

 Public Notice Advertising 

H.B. 1212 – This bill would have eliminated the publication requirement for notices of sheriff’s sales. It was authored by Rep. Wendy McNamara, R-Evansville, who testified in the bill’s House committee hearing that her goal was to eliminate all publication requirements for public notices. 

Her bill was defeated in its Senate Local Government Committee hearing, chaired by Sen. Jim Buck, R-Kokomo. H.B. 1212 died when the vote was four “ayes” and five “nays” on a motion to pass it. Sen. Andy Zay, R-Huntington, was the sponsor for H.B. 1212. Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville, was a co-sponsor. 

The five senators who voted against this anti-public notice advertising bill were: 

• Sen. Ron Grooms, R-Jeffersonville 

• Sen. Mike Bohacek, R-Michigan City 

• Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn 

• Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis 

• Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson 

The four who supported the bill were: 

• Sen. Jim Buck, R-Kokomo 

• Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville 

• Sen. Rick Niemeyer, R-Lowell 

• Sen. Linda Rogers, R-Granger 

H.B. 1212 had passed out of the House with a 62-34 vote. Joining Rep. McNamara as co-authors were Reps. Kevin Mahan, R-Hartford City; Jim Pressel, R-Rolling Prairie, and Dan Forestal, D-Indianapolis. 

H.B. 1212 emerged from the House Financial Institutions Committee, chaired by Rep. Woody Burton, R-Whiteland, on a 7-3 vote. Voting for H.B. 1212 were Reps. Burton; Bob Heaton, R-Terre Haute; Donna Schaibley, R-Carmel; Mike Speedy, R-Indianapolis, Heath VanNatter, R-Kokomo; Chris Chyung, D-Dyer; and Dan Forestal, D-Indianapolis. Voting against the bill were Jeff Ellington, R-Bloomington and Carey Hamilton, D-Indianapolis; and Robin Shackleford, D-Indianapolis. 

S.E.A. 535 – During this bill’s hearing in the House Select Committee on Government Reduction, Rep. Dave Wolkins, R-Warsaw, inserted a $250 cap on what state and local government units could pay a newspaper for the publication of a public notice. 

The bill, authored by Sen. Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville, had nothing to do with public notices. It’s subject matter was limitations on what cities and towns could control outside of their boundaries. 

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Steve Davisson, R-Salem, did not oppose Rep. Wolkins’ amendment. Nor did the committee chair, Rep. Doug Gutwein, R-Francesville. 

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 Austin’s amendment. 

Sen. Boots, who happens to be part of the ownership team for The Paper of Montgomery County (Crawfordsville) and The Times (Noblesvile), announced the removal of Wolkin’s language during S.B. 535’s conference committee hearing. The language had been ruled non-germane by Senate leadership. 

With the public notice language removed, Boots’ bill was passed by both the House and Senate and signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb on May 6. 

H.E.A. 1400 – As introduced by Rep. Tony Cook, R-Cicero, this bill eliminated multiple legislative requirements for school systems, including the requirement to create, let alone publish, an annual financial report in local newspapers. 

The language was changed before it emerged from the House Education Committee, chaired by Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, into a request of legislative council to assign to the interim study committee on education over three years of how to: (A) eliminate, reduce, or streamline the number of education mandates placed on schools; and (B) streamline fiscal and compliance reporting to the general assembly on a sustainable and systematic basis. The annual financial report would be studied in 2021. 

As a study committee request, Rep. Cook’s bill was passed by both chambers and signed by Gov. Holcomb on May 1. 

S.B. 435 – This bill would have replaced publication of public notice advertising with posting of notices on government websites. The bill was authored by Sen. Andy Zay, R-Huntington, who told HSPA the idea was brought to him by local school and county officials. 

The bill died when Sen. Jim Buck, R-Kokomo and chairman of the Senate Local Government Committee, decided not to give the bill a hearing. 

S.B. 313 – Authored by Sen. Rick Niemeyer, R-Lowell, would have eliminated the requirement of townships to publish their annual financial report. HSPA reached out to Sen. Niemeyer, who said that wasn’t his intent. He said he wanted to change the township-only requirement to list all payments during the year. HSPA said it would work on that provision with him, but the bill died when Senate Local Government Committee chair Sen. Jim Buck, R-Kokomo, decided not to give the bill a hearing. 

H.E.A. 1087 – HSPA worked with bill author Rep. Jim Pressel, R-Rolling Prairie, and sponsor Sen. Mike Bohacek, R-Michigan City, on language that would allow indigent plaintiffs who needed to publish a public notice to exert a legal right to ask for the state-set public notice advertising rate given to local government units. 

HSPA worked with statewide legal services organizations, who requested relief for indigent clients to craft the language. Rep. Pressel and Sen. Bohacek signed off on the language, but HSPA was informed by Sen. Mike Young, R-Indianapolis, chair of the Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee, that the amendment was non-germane to Pressel’s bill on court costs. HSPA will attempt to get the change made during the 2020 session. 

Pressel’s bill was signed into law by Gov. Holcomb on April 24. 

S.B. 91 & S.B. 37 – Both bills, authored respectively by Sen. John Ruckelshaus, R-Indianapolis, and Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, concerned the redistricting process. HSPA offered language to clarify the need for public notice prior to public hearings concerning proposed new district maps. 

Neither bill emerged from its Senate assigned committee. 

S.E.A. 208, authored by Sen. Mike Young, R-Indianapolis, allows for legal notification of lawsuits through electronic means instead of mail. HSPA was concerned that the bill might impact publication of summons when a defendant’s address was unknown, but Sen. Young assured it would not impact that legal process. 

Sen. Young’s bill was signed into law by Gov. Holcomb on April 3.