The infamous ag-gag bill, which was allowed to die in the last hours of the last legislative session, is being resurrected at the Interim Study Committee on Economic Development. The committee meets Wednesday in Indianapolis.
The purported issue of "Trespassing for the purpose of harming a business and making video images of a business with the intent to falsely portray the operations of a business" was assigned to the Indiana General Assembly committee in the spring. Hoosiers should expect a rehash of many of the arguments raised in the last session during debate over S.B. 373 sponsored by Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, and Rep. Bill Friend, R-Macy.
"Obviously, the concern is there really is no need for a bill like this, which will, in effect, chill any journalistic investigation or animal welfare interests," said Kim Ferraro, staff attorney and director of water and agricultural policy at the Hoosier Environmental Council. "There are already laws in place to address the concerns of livestock operators."
She correctly points out that the state already has laws to address all the concerns representatives of the confined animal feeding operation industry are raising. Those laws already protect agricultural business owners from people who gain access to their property without permission, or who may try to use distorted pictures or video to damage the reputation of the business.
Opponents of ag-gag legislation reasonably fear that it obstructs First Amendment rights. Such legislation also protects illegal and unethical practices while punishing whistleblowers.
"Really, this is just about criminalizing these activities to keep the public in the dark," Ferraro said. "I know there is a large coalition of interested groups that will be there, including the HEC."
The meeting will be broadcast live online at www.in.gov/legislative/2441.htm.