The Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee approved a bill that will make it a crime to distribute photos taken of agricultural and industrial operations without the owner’s permission.
S.B. 373, authored by State Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, was approved 7-2 Tuesday.
Representatives of the Indiana Farm Bureau, pork and poultry associations, Roseacre Farms, and the Indiana Manufacturing Association made it clear they wanted to discourage individuals from posting photos or video that puts their operations in a negative light.
Steve Key, executive director and general counsel for the Hoosier State Press Association, testified against the bill.
He said the approach reminded him of “veggie libel” bills that were considered in various states a few years ago that were designed to stop people from making critical statements about Washington State apples or Texas beef.
He understands the frustration for business owners to have photos taken without their permission by people they have hired or invited onto their property, but that violation of trust or manners shouldn’t be considered criminal behavior.
State Sen. Mark Stoops, D-Bloomington, presented a laundry list of actions farmers or businesses could take against individuals ranging from trespass to libel to breach of contract.
Committee chairman State Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis, raised questions about photos taken of illegal activity, which he felt shouldn’t be subject to sanction.
Key pointed out that there have been many instances where undercover journalism exposed activity that wasn’t against the law, but public exposure of the situation led to changes in law.
For example, Nellie Bly went into a New York insane asylum in 1887 to document treatment of women in institutions. What was happening wasn’t illegal, but her stories led to mental health reform.
Photos of children working in New England mills in the early 1900s led to child labor laws.
Photos illustrating discrimination in the South in the 1960s helped spark the passage of civil rights legislation.
Surprisingly to Key, S.B. 373 was supported by the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council.
“This bill sets ‘annoying’ as a threshold for criminal activity,” Key said.
Holdman had offered an amendment to drop a first offense from a misdemeanor to an infraction and added intent language saying the dissemination of the photos or video was prohibited if it was done to defame, harass, annoy or harm the pictured business.
The bill goes to the full Senate next.
It appears a House bill that would have moved bid notices and other procurement public notices to government websites will die.
H.B. 1589, authored by State Rep. David Ober, R-Albion, was heard Tuesday in the House Government and Regulatory Reform Committee chaired by State Rep. Kevin Mahan, R-Hartford City.
The Indiana Association of Cities and Towns and Association of Indiana Counties testified in favor of H.B. 1589 while HSPA opposed the bill.
Mahan decided to hold the bill after testimony was completed.
HSPA believes a more expansive public notice bill, S.B 458 authored by State Sen. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City, also will be allowed to die without a committee vote. It had been heard last week in the Senate Local Government Committee chaired by State Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport.
The House this week passed two public access bills that HSPA has worked with the authors to refine.
H.B. 1175, authored by State Rep. Bill Friend, R-Macy, was approved 72-27. H.B. 1102, authored by State Rep. Steve Davisson, R-Salem, was passed 98-0.
Friend’s bill deals with voluminous records requests and the ability for local government agencies to charge a search fee if it takes more than two hours to fulfill a request.
It also allows records requesters who seek an electronic record to ask for that record in electronic form.
Davisson’s bill tweaks the litigation provision for an executive session to include administrative law proceedings and allows school boards to appoint themselves as agents to directly negotiate with unions without triggering a public meeting under the Open Door Law.
State Sen. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette, has said he will allow his S.B. 139 to die. He came to appreciate that the bill allowing for closed-door discussion of sales of public property would allow decisions to be made without public input, Key said.
The full House is considering a bill that includes a provision to eliminate publication of annual school financial reports, replacing them with school district website posting. H.B. 1427 is authored by State Rep. Rhonda Rhoads, R-Corydon.
Under the bill, schools would be the only local government entity not required to publish its annual report even though school districts are usually the largest consumer of property taxes.