Bill that would eliminate publication for notices of sheriff’s sales passes House committee

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The bill that would eliminate the publication requirement for notices of sheriff’s sales was passed out of the House Committee on Financial Institutions with a 7-3 vote on Tuesday, Jan. 22.

H.B. 1212 is authored by Rep. Wendy McNamara, R-Evansville, who testified that her goal is to eliminate all public notice advertising in newspapers – calling the practice a “subsidy” for newspapers.

The Hoosier State Press Association opposes H.B. 1212 and executive director and general counsel Steve Key testified against the bill along with three Indiana publishers, Robyn McCloskey, Tim Timmons and Greg Morris.

Testifying for the bill was a representative of the Indiana Sheriff’s Association and Philip Lieberman of Lieberman Technologies in Evansville, which manages the sheriff’s sale auctions in 16 counties.

Lieberman told the committee that posting the notices on the sheriff’s website would make them more dynamic, since they would be on the Internet.


“I’m surprised that the sheriffs want to take additional manpower away from law enforcement to serve as website managers to help banks and insiders with their foreclosures.”

Steve Key, HSPA Executive Director & General Counsel


Key pointed out the notices are already on the Internet, both on the websites of Indiana newspapers and HSPA’s www.indianapublicnotices.com, which has word-searchable capabilities.

McNamara had gotten data from Lieberman that indicated the high cost of placing sheriff’s sale notices with one paper averaging over $1,3000 for the three-run placement.

Key confirmed that HSPA’s data did show a few outliers in the cost of placement, but pledged to work with publishers in an attempt to correct such anomalies if the bill died. He pointed out that the bill could easily return if HSPA didn’t uphold its promise.

Several committee members expressed shock over the price charged by a few papers and cited it as the deciding factor to support the legislation.

Voting for H.B. 1212 were Reps. Woody Burton, R-Evansville; 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 Democrats Carey Hamilton, D-Indianapolis; and Robin Shackleford, D-Indianapolis.

Rep. Ellington expressed concern over the lack of broadband service in rural Indiana, which would limit Hoosiers’ ability to see the notices. Rep. Hamilton cites the need for an independent entity to post notices to maintain the integrity of the process.

Key said the sheriff’s sale notices serve as a last line of defense to help individuals who may not know he foreclosure process is underway, but also helps those who are properly in a foreclosure because it increases the chances for more bidders. The more bidders, the higher the auction price, which is applied to that homeowner’s debt.

Public notice also may give community business owners a heads up that a client or vendor may be having some financial issues. The business owner may decide to be more careful about credit decisions or keep a closer eye on completion of a contract armed with the sheriff’s sale notice.

Moving the notices to the sheriff’s website only helps the foreclosing bank and insiders who use the sheriff’s sale to snap up homes at an extremely discounted price. The banks and insiders or the ones who must pay for the cost of the notice of sheriff’s sale as part of the purchase – the notices do not cost taxpayer dollars.

Taxpayers will be footing the bill for the need by sheriff’s to set up a process to post the notices on their websites, determine a way to verify the posting, and archive the postings of these notices for three years.

Chores all now handled by newspapers at no additional cost beyond the cost of publication and paid by the winning bidders — not the taxpayers, Key notes.

“I’m surprised that the sheriffs want to take additional manpower away from law enforcement to serve as website managers to help banks and insiders with their foreclosures,” Key said.

UPDATE: 

On Jan. 29, the House voted 62-34 to eliminate publication requirement for notices of sheriff’s sale with passage of H.B. 1212. Bill now moves to Senate where sponsor is Sen. Andrew Zay, R-Huntington.
 
HSPA appreciates Reps. Bruce Borders, R-Jasonville; and Terri Austin, D-Anderson, for speaking against H.B. 1212 during House floor debate.

 

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