Public notices top priority as 2023 session begins

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Lawmakers have returned to the Capitol, lobbyists to the hallway, and journalists to committee hearings—it’s that time of year again, legislative session. And with 2023, an odd year, comes the biennial budget session where lawmakers will spend the next four months determining how they want to fund the state. It’s a rare session that doesn’t see a myriad of bills that touch on the concerns and priorities of the Hoosier State Press Association — this year is no exception.

HSPA has been working with stakeholders to navigate the language and preserve public notice in newspapers as it remains imperative to good public policy that legal notices are published by a third party.

On top of mind is HB1438, Publication of local government notices, authored by the chairman of House Government and Regulatory Reform, Rep. Doug Miller (R-Elkhart). Although similar in intent as Sen. Jim Buck’s (R-Kokomo) bill from last session, HB1438 is significantly different in the infrastructure it creates for public notice within government websites.

HSPA has been working with stakeholders to navigate the language and preserve public notice in newspapers as it remains imperative to good public policy that legal notices are published by a third party. The bill has yet to be scheduled for a hearing.

HSPA was asked by bill author Rep. Ben Smaltz (R-Auburn) to testify in support of HB1167, Live streaming and archiving public meetings on January 24. The bill requires all public meetings to be live streamed and archived for 90 days.

We are supportive of the language as it ensures that all people have an opportunity to participate in their local government by acknowledging the demands of our world and limits that many constituents face in their everyday lives with a modern and convenient solution. The archive will also be a fantastic resource for journalists statewide.

There are two bills of concern, one in each chamber, restricting the distance with which bystanders may observe police officers during official actions.

There are notable differences between the two, HB1186 makes it a C misdemeanor if a person knowingly or intentionally approaches a law enforcement officer within 25 feet after being asked to stop; SB299 creates a B misdemeanor if a person refuses to move a reasonable distance away after being asked by the law enforcement officer.

Keep up on the bills HSPA is tracking this session here.

While HSPA believes that this is not good public policy in general, we are specifically seeking a carve out for journalists who are acting in the course of their regular business.

The delicate dance between transparency and government control continues at the capitol and we will be there through the whole process to ensure that Indiana’s newspapers can continue to serve as the Fourth Estate in our democracy.

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