House, Senate approve bill advancing online publication of public notices


House vote 51-40, Senate vote 35-14

S.B. 332, which allows government units to move the second and third publication of multi-run public notices, to “official websites,” was approved by both the Indiana House and Senate on April 20.

The vote in the House was 51-40 – the bare minimum needed to pass it. The vote in the Senate was 35-14. HSPA will share the voting breakdown when we get a copy of the votes so that publishers can see how their local legislators voted.

The votes illustrate the shifting mood in the legislature toward publication of public notices in local newspapers, said Steve Key, executive director and general counsel for the Hoosier State Press Association.

“Even our allies in the legislature have been telling us that it’s a matter of when, not if, public notices should move to the Internet,” Key said.

That’s why HSPA already has pledged to the leaders of the four legislative caucuses that it will present a comprehensive modernization of public notice policy this summer with the goal of introducing legislation in the 2022 session.

“Even our allies in the legislature have been telling us that it’s a matter of when, not if, public notices should move to the Internet.”

Steve Key, executive director and general counsel, Hoosier State Press Association

During the April 20 floor votes, there was no debate in the Senate over S.B. 332 beyond the author’s presentation of the bill. Sen. Jim Buck, R-Kokomo, stressed that the change was optional.

“My experience with local government is that when it comes to public notice, the bare minimum is the default position,” Key said. “Publishers will need to do some local politicking to maintain the multi-run notices beyond the first publication, which will still be required under S.B. 332. The option for government units will become effective on July 1.

Among the notices impacted are tax sales and sheriff’s sales (mortgage foreclosures).

Four Democrats spoke against S.B. 332 in the House. Rep. Chris Campbell, D-West Lafayette, pointed out that the bill would allow a government unit to use Facebook as its posting site.

“It’s like putting it out in the middle of the woods,” she said. “There’s a reason why the notices are done two or three times in a fashion which was established over 100 years ago.”

Rep. Campbell noted the bill doesn’t account for how the electronically posted notices will be archived for future reference.

“This will make the notices less visible and less accessible,” Campbell concluded.

Rep. Pat Boy, D-Michigan City, noted that Facebook doesn’t belong to any government entity and there isn’t any archiving system.

Rep. Cherrish Pryor, D-Indianapolis, specifically was concerned about the impact on Hoosiers with the changes to tax sales and sheriff’s sales.

“Older people potentially losing their homes won’t know their property is eligible for tax sale,” she said. “I think this is very dangerous because people are not going to see it on the Internet.”

Rep. John Bartlett, D-Indianapolis, echoed Pryor’s concern. “To lose your highest asset because you missed (the notice) – this is a bad bill.”

Key said the lack of comments from Republican – beyond sponsor Rep. Doug Miller’s presentation of the bill, spoke to the desire of the Republican caucus to see this bill passed.