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Letters: HSPA recognizes local legislators

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Tim Brown

The Hoosier State Press Association thanks you for supporting H.B. 1437. This bill will allow members of local governing bodies to participate and vote via electronic means. It was authored by Rep. Tony Cook, R-Cicero.

HSPA supported the concept, but we did raise a concern for a need to have a requirement that a physical quorum be present.

That concern was answered through an amendment offered by Rep. Cook and Rep. Dave Abbott, R-Rome City, during the bill’s hearing in the House Government and Regulatory Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Doug Miller, R-Elkhart. The amendment required at least half of the members of the governing body be physically present at a meeting.

Previous law allowed members to participate electronically in discussions of issues, but not be counted as present or be allowed to vote. The changes reflect a change in attitude after governing bodies were forced into electronic meetings to operate during the pandemic emergency.

The bill does contain some restriction on how many times a member can attend meetings electronically and the governing body must have a procedure where the public attending can see and hear those who are participating electronically. H.B. 1437 also contains a list of subjects that prohibit a vote being cast by anyone not physically present – budget approval, for example.

HSPA is concerned the prohibited list may cause confusion and testified during the bill’s conference committee that the language in S.B. 369, authored by Sen. Linda Rogers, R-Granger, would be simpler to enact, but the legislature felt the list should be included.

The bill was passed by the House 86-7 including your “yea” vote and by the Senate 49-0. The bill was passed out of the Senate Local Government Committee, chaired by Sen. Jim Buck R-Kokomo. Rep. Cook concurred on Senate changes and the House voted 82-6 to pass the concurrence – again with your “yea” vote. It was signed into law by Gov. Eric Holcomb on April 20. The bill sponsor was Sen. Rogers.

Co-authors were Reps. Elizabeth Rowray, R-Yorktown, Carey Hamilton, D-Indianapolis; and John Bartlett, D-Indianapolis. Co-sponsors were Sens. Stacey Donato, R-Logansport; J.D. Ford, D-Carmel; and Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago.

We look forward to working with you during the 2022 General Assembly. Meanwhile, enjoy the rest of 2021.

• • •

Phil Boots

The Hoosier State Press Association thanks you for opposing S.B. 332. The bill gives local government units the option on notices that currently require more than one publication to move the subsequent notices after the first is published in a local newspaper to an “official website.” While the bill focused on government notices, it also included sheriff’s sales (mortgage foreclosures and enforcement of civil judgments).

Bill author Sen. Jim Buck, R-Kokomo, told HSPA this was his attempt to force the Indiana newspaper industry to take a “small step” in transitioning to digital public notices. HSPA informed him of our pledge to the four caucus leaders to present a proposal for the 2022 session to modernize the state policy on public notices with a transition from print-centric to digital centric. We asked Sen. Buck to move the effective date of S.B.332 to mid-2022, but he declined to do so, saying newspapers needed to be forced to make a transition.

The bill was approved by the Senate Local Government Committee, chaired by Buck. HSPA did not try to defeat the bill because we hoped to improve the bill as it moved forward. The Senate passed S.B. 332 with a 39-7 vote. You were one of the seven who voted “nay.”

The House sponsor was Rep. Doug Miller, R-Elkhart. HSPA pushed for either a delay in the bill’s effective date or the removal of the sheriff’s sales from the bill since those notices were not paid for by taxpayer dollars, but were included in the cost for the buyers of properties auctioned.

Rep. Miller said he would accept an HSPA amendment if Buck agreed. Buck refused to budge on the effective date, but he agreed to the removal of the sheriff’s sales. HSPA testified in favor of the bill with that amendment during the House Government and Regulatory Reform Committee hearing of the bill. Miller chairs that committee, which approved the bill as amended.

The Indiana Bankers Association were unhappy about the committee amendment and pushed Miller and Buck to restore the sheriff’s sales language back into the bill.

Miller then indicated he might amend bill on the House floor to put sheriffs’ sales back into the bill contrary to what had been agreed. HSPA and its contracted lobbying firm, The Corydon Group, worked hard for the agreement to hold. Following a Republican caucus discussion on the bill, Miller did not offer his toxic amendment. Rep. Kris Campbell, D-West Lafayette, did successfully offer two small amendments. The bill then passed in the House 93-0 after HSPA signaled that they supported the bill.

Unfortunately, Buck decided to file a dissent. He told HSPA he had questions about the impact of Campbell’s amendment concerning prohibition of social media platforms being named official government websites. Buck also did not close the door to adding sheriffs’ sales back into the bill.

In fact, the conference committee report did add back the sheriff’s sale language.

The Senate then passed S.B. 332 with a 35-14 vote. You were one of the 14 who voted against it in support of Indiana newspapers. The House barely passed it, 51-40. Gov. Eric Holcomb signed the bill into law on April 29.

HSPA also thanks you for supporting H.B. 1437. This bill will allow members of local governing bodies to participate and vote via electronic means. It was authored by Rep. Tony Cook, R-Cicero.

HSPA supported the concept, but we did raise a concern for a need to have a requirement that a physical quorum be present.

That concern was answered through an amendment offered by Rep. Cook and Rep. Dave Abbott, R-Rome City, during the bill’s hearing in the House Government and Regulatory Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Doug Miller, R-Elkhart. The amendment required at least half of the members of the governing body be physically present at a meeting.

Previous law allowed members to participate electronically in discussions of issues, but not be counted as present or be allowed to vote. The changes reflect a change in attitude after governing bodies were forced into electronic meetings to operate during the pandemic emergency.

The bill does contain some restriction on how many times a member can attend meetings electronically and the governing body must have a procedure where the public attending can see and hear those who are participating electronically. H.B. 1437 also contains a list of subjects that prohibit a vote being cast by anyone not physically present — budget approval, for example.

HSPA is concerned the prohibited list may cause confusion and testified during the bill’s conference committee that the language in S.B. 369, authored by Sen. Linda Rogers, R-Granger, would be simpler to enact, but the legislature felt the list should be included.

The bill was passed by the House 86-7 and the Senate 49-0. The bill was passed out of the Senate Local Government Committee, chaired by Sen. Jim Buck R-Kokomo. Rep. Cook concurred on Senate changes and the House voted 81-6 to pass the concurrence. It was signed into law by Gov. Eric Holcomb on April 20. The bill sponsor was Sen. Rogers.

Co-authors were Reps. Elizabeth Rowray, R-Yorktown, Carey Hamilton, D-Indianapolis; and John Bartlett, D-Indianapolis. Co-sponsors were Sens. Stacey Donato, R-Logansport; J.D. Ford, D-Carmel; and Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago.

Similarly, HSPA appreciates your support for S.B. 369. A companion bill to H.B. 1437. This Senate version was authored by Sen. Linda Rogers, R-Granger. She worked with HSPA to add a requirement for a physical majority to be present at all meetings of local governing bodies.

HSPA preferred Sen. Rogers’ version because it didn’t include a list of subjects that couldn’t be voted on by members participating electronically. HSPA feels the list will cause confusion as to whether members can participate electronically if there’s a question as to whether an item on the agenda falls under the list.

The bill was passed out of the Senate Local Government Committee, chaired by Sen. Jim Buck, R-Kokomo, and the Senate, 46-0. It was passed out of the House Government and Regulatory Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Doug Miller, R-Elkhart. The committee added the H.B. 1437 list of subjects requiring physical presence to vote. HSPA, the Indiana School Boards Association and Accelerate Indiana Municipalities all expressed concern with that addition.

S.B. 369 died for lack of a House vote after a decision had been made to move H.B. 1437, rather than S.B. 369. The S.B. 369 sponsor was Rep. Tony Cook R-Cicero.

Co-authors were Sens. Jeff Raatz, R-Richmond; Tim Lanane, D-Anderson; Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago; Mike Bohacek, R-Michigan City; Jim Buck, R-Kokomo; Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn; and Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville. Co-sponsors were Rep. Elizabeth Rowray, R-Yorktown; and Doug Miller, R-Elkhart.

We look forward to working with you during the 2022 General Assembly. Meanwhile, enjoy the rest of 2021.

• • •

Sharon Negele

The Hoosier State Press Association appreciates your willingness to talk about H.B. 1418, although we were unable to convince you to make any changes to the bill you authored for the Indiana Economic Development Committee. This bill eliminates public access to IEDC offers to companies that did not end up being consummated.

IEDC testified that its intent was to “clarify” what economic efforts should be made available to reduce litigation over the question. The clarification actually eliminated the public’s ability to know the scope of offers made when a deal falls through for whatever reason.

You met with HSPA and connected us with the IEDC lobbyists, who were honest about their intentions.

Although IEDC representatives said it wasn’t connected, HSPA believes the legislation was prompted by a lawsuit filed by Tax Analysts, who were attempting to determine what offer was made by IEDC and Indianapolis to lure the Amazon HQ2 to Indiana.

Tax Analysts, a non-profit Washington, D.C., entity was trying to collect information on the 238 cities who tried to land the Amazon 2 headquarters. The cities of Gary and Indianapolis were among those in the competition. Tax Analysts was able to determine that the Gary bid included $1.5 billion in incentives. IEDC declined to make available any information about the Indianapolis bid — arguing there wasn’t a “final offer” made.

The case offered an insight for the public to know what deals are being offered, even if the deal isn’t closed. First, the amount of Gary’s bid - $1.5 billion – might raise questions as to whether the city and state were offering too much for the prize of Amazon’s second headquarters. The value of the incentives equaled 8% of the state-funded portion of Indiana’s 2016 budget. It could be a bargain based on ancillary economic development expected to follow Amazon’s move or some might feel the incentives are too much compared to the benefits of winning the bid.

Because IEDC refuses to release the Indianapolis/IEDC number, it also leaves unanswered whether the IEDC incentives offered were greater for Indianapolis than what it was willing to do for Gary. Lake County residents might want to know why if it appears IEDC was favoring one Indiana city over another.

Since Tax Analysts has been able to obtain offers for 124 out of the 238 total proposals to Amazon, the release of such information desired to be kept secret by the IEDC arguably does not put Indiana at a competitive disadvantage to other states. The release would allow someone to compare Indiana’s offer to other states to consider whether Indiana is deficient in its economic development efforts or proven to be highly competitive with other states.

HSPA testified against the bill to no avail in both its House Commerce, Small Business and Economic Development Committee, chaired by Rep. Bob Morris, R-Fort Wayne; and Senate Commerce and Technology Committee, chaired by Sen. Chip Perfect, R-Lawrenceburg. The bill was passed by the House 92-3, and the Senate 47-0. It ended up in a conference committee, but the report was passed by the House, 89-3 and the Senate, 45-4. Governor Eric Holcomb signed the bill into law on April 29. The bill sponsor was Sen. Jon Ford, R-Terre Haute.

HSPA does thank you for supporting H.B. 1437. This bill will allow members of local governing bodies to participate and vote via electronic means. It was authored by Rep. Tony Cook, R-Cicero.

HSPA supported the concept, but we did raise a concern for a need to have a requirement that a physical quorum be present.

That concern was answered through an amendment offered by Rep. Cook and Rep. Dave Abbott, R-Rome City, during the bill’s hearing in the House Government and Regulatory Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Doug Miller, R-Elkhart. The amendment required at least half of the members of the governing body be physically present at a meeting.

Previous law allowed members to participate electronically in discussions of issues, but not be counted as present or be allowed to vote. The changes reflect a change in attitude after governing bodies were forced into electronic meetings to operate during the pandemic emergency.

The bill does contain some restriction on how many times a member can attend meetings electronically and the governing body must have a procedure where the public attending can see and hear those who are participating electronically. H.B. 1437 also contains a list of subjects that prohibit a vote being cast by anyone not physically present — budget approval, for example.

HSPA is concerned the prohibited list may cause confusion and testified during the bill’s conference committee that the language in S.B. 369, authored by Sen. Linda Rogers, R-Granger, would be simpler to enact, but the legislature felt the list should be included.

The bill was passed by the House 86-7 including your “yea” vote and by the Senate 49-0. The bill was passed out of the Senate Local Government Committee, chaired by Sen. Jim Buck R-Kokomo. Rep. Cook concurred on Senate changes and the House voted 82-6 to pass the concurrence – again with your “yea” vote. It was signed into law by Gov. Eric Holcomb on April 20. The bill sponsor was Sen. Rogers.

Co-authors were Reps. Elizabeth Rowray, R-Yorktown, Carey Hamilton, D-Indianapolis; and John Bartlett, D-Indianapolis. Co-sponsors were Sens. Stacey Donato, R-Logansport; J.D. Ford, D-Carmel; and Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago.

We look forward to working with you during the 2022 General Assembly. Meanwhile, enjoy the rest of 2021.

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