Chesterton Tribune


Commissioners to hold public hearing on ordinance to halt protests at funerals

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At their regular meeting on Tuesday, the Porter County Commissioners will consider an ordinance that would ban protests at funerals.

County Attorney Betty Knight said the language drafted in the ordinance is similar to the ban that was approved by the Porter Town Council last week which mimicked a law in Manchester, Mo. banning protests. According to the proposed ordinance, no person shall engage in protest activities such as picketing within 300 feet of a funeral or burial services within one hour before or one hour after ceremonies.

The ordinance is narrowly drafted as a legitimate ďtime, place and manner regulationĒ so it will not be in violation of a citizenís First Amendment right to free speech and offers opportunities when someone can express their views, Knight said.

The U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals last year upheld that the Manchester law was constitutional because it was narrowly drafted, she said. Local governments have sought bans in response to protests made by the Westboro Baptist Church in the killings of American soldiers.

A violation of this ordinance can result in a fine of no more than $1,000 and/or up to three months imprisonment, the ordinance states.

The Commissioners will hold a first reading of the ordinance Tuesday with a public hearing.

A second reading will take place at the April 16 Commissionersí meeting.

In other business, Mike Jabo of DLZ Indiana will ask the Commissioners to receive and open bids for the replacement of HVAC equipment at the County Administration Building.

Also, the Commissioners will hold a second reading on an ordinance to restructure the Health Departmentís fee for death certificates from $7 to $9. The Commissioners unanimously approved the measure on first reading after closing the public hearing. Health board attorney David Hollenbeck said the increase will boost funding for the Coronerís education fund.

Department heads coming before the commissioners to have them consider agreements with consultants include County Recorder Jon Miller, Treasurer Mike Bucko, Auditor Robert Wichlinski, and Plan Commission Director Robert Thompson.

In Plan Commission business, the Commissioners will review the 30-year development plan for 15 square miles surrounding the Porter Regional Airport. The plan is to create a guide for growth and includes no rezoning.

The Commissioners will meet at 1 p.m. in Suite 205 of the County Administration Building located at 155 Indiana Ave., Valparaiso.

Posted 4/1/2013