Lame duck legislative ses-
sions sometimes include a flurry of last-minute action on measures that receive minimal attention because of the approaching holidays, which can be ideal for items tailored to serve special interests.
Such seems to be the case with House Bill 247, now pending at the Statehouse, which deals with public notices for self-service storage unit auctions.
When a storage unit tenant defaults on rent, the contents of the unit are offered for sale. Interest in the auctions has increased, largely because of "Storage Wars," a popular cable TV show focusing on the occasional rewards of bidding on storage units.
The present law requires storage unit auctions to be advertised for two consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation in the county where the storage unit is located. This serves public notice to the owner of the unit's contents that an auction has been scheduled, and also draws the attention of potential bidders.
HB 247 would short-circuit the public notice requirement. Instead of newspaper advertising, "any other commercially reasonable manner" would serve as sufficient notice as long as "three independent bidders attend the sale at the time and place advertised."
The change would enable owners of self-storage units to proceed with selling the contents of storage units with minimal notice to those who have leased them. Others who might have an interest in ownership of the units' contents, such as family members, estranged spouses or business associates, also could be affected by the change.
As a newspaper, we have a vested interest in this because public notices generate advertising revenue. But we also raise the issue because the proposal would lessen the existing mandate for public awareness of such sales.
Secrecy, whether through closing the doors to a government meeting or making it more difficult to know when a storage unit auction is being held, is an invitation for abuse by the unscrupulous. There are reasons, and good ones, for requiring public notice of storage unit auctions.
We urge the House Judiciary Committee to take a closer look at HB 247 and reassert the need for proper advertisement of storage auction sales.