Reps speak against anti-public notice bill

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H.B. 1498 fails for lack of a constitutional majority, author could ask for another vote

A half dozen state Representatives went to the podium to speak out against H.B. 1498, which would allow government units to replace publication of public notice in newspapers with posting on their websites in mid-2022.
The bill’s author, Rep. Doug Miller, R-Elkhart, presented the bill as a transition from mandated publication to options in recognition of changing technology.

“How we gather information is drastically changing,” Rep. Miller said. He said the change would “dovetail with the expansion of broadband” in the state.

HSPA had argued in committee that H.B. 1498 failed to consider the check on government abuse that occurs when it’s the local newspaper obligated to share a public notice rather than the government officials who would benefit from the public being kept in the dark on a controversial issue.

After Miller’s presentation of the bill, Rep. Chuck Moseley, D-Portage, immediately asked Miller if HSPA favored his bill. Miller’s response was: “They are not 100% comfortable because it changes the paradigm.”

Rep. Bruck Borders, R-Jasonville, then spoke against the bill. He talked about how his community relies on the Jasonville Independent for birth announcements, Little League results and other community news.

“They’re not going to look at government websites” for the notices that “get into the pocketbook of the people,” Borders said.

Rep. Chris Campbell, D-West Lafayette, voiced “serious concerns” with the bill. She noted the websites of the 13 townships in her area are “pretty bad.” “Information will be lost,” she said.

She voiced concern about the lack of broadband service in many areas and the impact on older Hoosiers who don’t have access to a smartphone or computer.

Rep. Matt Hostettler, R-Patoka, then spoke in favor of H.B. 1498. He said newspapers currently hold local government and the people as “hostages” because they have to pay for the placement of the public notices and pay a subscription for the newspaper.

Rep. Cherrish Pryor, D-Indianapolis, asked Miller three questions, culminating with her concern for the elderly who often unknowingly find their properties listed in a tax sale. “How will they know their property is up for sale,” she asked.

Miller again referred to how his bill would be a paradigm shift that the public would accept over the next two years.
“The point I want to make is that if you don’t have these notices in print, a significant number are not going to know what government is doing,” Pryor said.

Rep. Curt Nisly, R-Milford, asked the Representatives to be mindful of their Amish neighbors as they considered a change from print to digital public notices.

Rep. Pat Boy, D-Michigan City, noted that large areas have no Internet connection and others still only have dial-up. “I think we’re jumping the gun,” she said.

Rep. John Bartlett, D-Indianapolis, agreed. “This bill is premature. I’m old and used to reading my paper and drinking my coffee in the morning,” he said.

Rep. Miller closed by telling the Representatives that Accelerate Indiana Municipalities, Association of Indiana Counties, and the Indiana School Boards Association all supported his bill.

The vote was 46-44 in favor, so H.B. 1498 failed for lack of a constitutional majority. Miller could ask for another vote to try and reach the needed 51 votes. Ten legislators missed the vote.

Steve Key, executive director and general counsel, said there were other champions who spoke out against H.B. 1498 in both the Republican and Democratic caucus discussion of the bill before the vote occurred.

The vote against H.B. 1498 was a bipartisan vote with 18 Republicans and 26 Democrats lighting the red “No” button on the tally screen.

Representatives voting no on H.B. 1498:

Republicans

Dave Abbott, Rome City
Mike Aylesworth, Hebron
Bruce Borders, Jasonville
Bob Cherry, Greenfield
Ed Clere, New Albany
Randy Frye, Greensburg
Doug Gutwein, Francesville
John Jacob, Indianapolis
Mike Karickhoff, Kokomo
Matt Lehman, Berne
Curt Nisly, Milford
Elizabeth Rowray, Yorktown
Tom Saunders, Lewisville
Hal Slager, Schererville
Ben Smaltz, Aubern
Ed Soliday, Valparaiso
Jerry Torr, Carmel
Dennis Zent, Angola

Democrats

Mike Andrade, Munster
Terri Austin, Anderson
John Bartlett, Indianapolis
Maureen Bauer, South Bend
Pat Boy, Michigan City
Chris Campbell, West Lafayette
Ed DeLaney, Indianapolis
Sue Errington, Muncie
Rita Fleming, Jeffersonville
Phil GiaQuinta, Fort Wayne

Mitch Gore, Indianapolis
Carey Hamilton, Indianapolis
Earl Harris Jr., East Chicago
Ragen Hatcher, Gary
Carolyn Jackson, Hammond
Blake Johnson, Indianapolis
Shelia Klinker, Lafayette
Justin Moed, Indianapolis
Chuck Moseley, Portage
Ranee Pack, Indianapolis
Tonya Pfaff, Terre Haute
Matt Pierce, Bloomington
Greg Porter, Indianapolis
Cherrish Pryor, Indianapolis
Robin Shackleford, Indianapolis
Vernon Smith, Gary

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