INDIANAPOLIS — A proposal to eliminate mandatory newspaper publication of sheriff's foreclosure sale notices was defeated 5-4 Thursday by the Senate Local Government Committee.

While House Bill 1212 will now not advance for debate and final approval by the full Senate, it remains eligible to be inserted in other legislation in the weeks remaining before the Legislature's April 29 adjournment deadline because it previously passed the House.

The plan would have terminated a state requirement for newspaper publication of sheriff's sale notices, and instead directed the listings to be posted on a sheriff's office or county government website.

State Rep. Wendy McNamara, R-Evansville, the sponsor of the measure, claimed public notice advertising in newspapers is a direct subsidy for private companies, as well as an archaic practice when nearly all Hoosiers only seek information from online sources.

"Most people know that newspapers are going out of business," McNamara said.

"It is clear that the public is no longer getting their information from print, and therefore the sheriff's sales need to be removed from the purview of the newspapers and placed in the domain where all the transactions of this type are taking place."

State Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, pushed back on McNamara's claims.

He pointed out that the cost of newspaper publication generally is borne by the purchaser of a foreclosed property, and it actually would increase county government spending to have sheriff's offices posting, maintaining and verifying the notices on their websites, instead of just handing those tasks to local newspapers.

"In my opinion, it's irrelevant who reads it, it's all about transparency — that's all public notice is about," Taylor said. "It's not about convenience, it's not about who reads it, it's not about pricing, it's about public information being in the public."

Steve Key, executive director of the Hoosier State Press Association, an Indiana newspaper industry trade organization, said one of the benefits of print publication is that people come across the notices in the process of reading other news stories — and end up more informed as a result.

"It's like going to a mall to buy shoes and then you find out that another store has got blue jeans on sale," Key said. "You won't get that with putting notices on government websites."

Key also observed that newspaper publication of sheriff's sale notices is both in the print edition and online, and newspaper websites attract hundreds or thousands of times more daily visitors than the online outlets of Indiana local governments.

Among Region lawmakers on the panel, state Sen. Mike Bohacek, R-Michiana Shores, voted to preserve newspaper publication of sheriff's sale notices, while state Sen. Rick Niemeyer, R-Lowell, said it should be discontinued.

"I think we've prolonged it as long as we can," Niemeyer said. "Now we need to make a move on this, and I'm confident the people that I represent would agree with this legislation."

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