A bill that would block a newspaper from being able to publish notices of trustee sales if that newspaper has a financial interest in the sale has passed the Senate despite lingering concerns that the bill could cast a large legal net around people and companies that have only a minor interest in the sale or even block larger newspapers from publishing the notices.
House Bill 624 says it is a misdemeanor for a newspaper to publish notices of trustee sales if that newspaper will directly or indirectly profit from such publication. The legislation is largely a response to the recent purchase of the Kuna-Melba News, where the owner is both the publisher of trustee notices and a trustee.
Supporters said the measure would keep the trustee from benefiting from only publishing notices in as small a venue as possible. A trustee, Republican Sen. Jim Rice, R-Caldwell, said, has a duty to put all other interests ahead of his own. Rice said that can't happen if the trustee can decide to limit publication in a small newspaper.
But opponents said the bill would subvert the free market and prevents newspapers from capitalizing on the “vertical integration” of their business lines.
And Sen. Lee Heider, R-Twin Falls, expressed concern that even large newspapers could be impacted—unable to publish a notice of a trustee sale and, therefore, be unable to get more eyes on the sale notice.
“My concern is, are we adjusting this law to fix one circumstance, or are we adjusting this law to be a good thing for all newspapers and all trustees?” Heider asked.
Sen. Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, acknowledged that would be the case but, “I do think we have an example that highlights the problem.” The bill “gets ahead of it,” Davis said.
In committee discussion and in the debate on the House floor, legislators had argued that a bank having interest in a trustee sale and ownership stock interest in a newspaper would preclude the newspaper from publishing a notice of trustee sale.
The bill passed 28-6 and now heads to Gov. Butch Otter for his consideration.
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