The Hoosier State Press Association’s Board of Directors presented to Indiana publishers the framework for legislation to modernize the state’s public notice policy during a virtual Summit on Sept. 10.
HSPA’s proposal plans to address issues that exist under current law and how public notices would be effective if the state requirement would be for digital posting rather than print publication.
Any legislation pushed by HSPA would not deviate from the four principles of effective public notice:
• Easily accessible for the public;
• Verifiable publication/posting to satisfy judicial due process;
• Ability to archive the notices for legal and historic purposes;
• Distribution through an entity independent of the government to avoid corruption of the process.
Following are pieces of the 2022 public notice legislative proposal we expect to present to the caucus leaders in the next couple of months.
Print cost savings
Government entities would be charged only for one publication even when statute requires publication multiple times.
Pauper plaintiffs who need to publish/post notice shall be eligible for the capped government rate, even if the notice is a private party notice.
HSPA contemplates instituting limits on what newspapers can charge for commonly submitted notices, such as sheriff’s sales (mortgage foreclosures), for example.
If needed, legislation could clarify that updated versions of a tax sale (as property owners redeem their properties) does not count as a new notice.
Aggregation of notices
HSPA would continue to operate its aggregated public notice website where all public notices will be accessible as www.indianapublicnotices.com. Notices can be found through key word searches.
Customers will have the option of submitting a public notice locally through a local newspaper or through the statewide website where the customer can route it to the selected newspapers. Local newspaper would continue to make proof available and bill the customer.
Templates will be created for common types of notices (electronically available with fill in the blanks capability). HSPA hopes to work with the state judiciary on these templates.
HSPA suggests that published/posted notices be uploaded to Indiana Supreme Court’s MyCase system so that it becomes part of court record and attorneys get alert to the notice being legally given.
When public notice moves to digital requirements, HSPA legislation would address what journalistic entities would be eligible to post them. Eligibility would be expanded beyond newspapers with a periodicals mail permit.
“The rationale is to free present newspapers to pursue economic models that give them a better chance to be profitable,” said Steve Key, executive director and general counsel for HSPA.
The criteria to become eligible will focus on Indiana businesses who create local news content at least weekly, who are tied to a specific community, and who are free from government regulatory oversight.
In establishing a state-set rate for digital public notices, HSPA contemplates a folio rate (cost per 100 words). This will be simpler for government units to estimate cost compared to current state-mandated cap that uses picas/points/Em spaces/printer’s square.
HSPA will coordinate with Indiana State Library and Archives to develop protocol for preservation of digital notices for historical purposes.
HSPA would work with Indiana Supreme Court to determine acceptable verification protocol to protect due process rights for individuals. This should also apply for acceptance by local government entities as proof of publication and allowance for news entity to be paid.
If economically feasible for HSPA, the public could request email delivery of public notices based on subject matter or government unit desired by the customer through search words selected.
“The idea is to update the public notice statute to better serve Hoosiers while preserving their ability to access public notice to maintain government transparency and due process,” Key said.