Don't worry your pretty little heads about it, Hoosiers.

The State of Indiana is perfectly comfortable keeping you in the dark. It makes things easier for special interests and the government employees who are supposed to be regulating them.

The latest evidence supporting that assertion comes from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management's Office of Air Quality.

Those folks are seeking permission from the Environmental Protection Agency to stop publishing notices of hearings. The time and cost of notifying the public are a nuisance. It would be simpler to post the notices on a website and send emails to people who sign up to get notification.

Trouble is, the average person doesn't go surfing through hearing notices from IDEM or sign up for email notification. Taking the web-only approach guarantees that special interest groups - both corporate and environmental - are informed about what's going on.

The general public, people who read newspapers, would be kept in the dark.

It is never a simple thing for a newspaper to take to the soapbox about public notice advertising. After all, public notice ads provide a revenue stream. Not a huge one, but one that could rightly provoke cynicism - or at least skepticism - when we argue that public notice ads serve an important purpose in a democratic society.

So let's get a few basics cleared up right away.

It's the Indiana General Assembly which requires when public notice advertising should be published. It's the Indiana General Assembly which determines the size of the type. And - except for some non-governmental categories - it's the Indiana General Assembly which sets the price to be charged.

That's the system that's been in place for more than 80 years.

That's how Hoosiers learned about the innards of local budgets that couldn't be explained in a single news story by a single reporter.

That's how they learned about landfill expansions. That's how they found out about requests for zoning variances.

But over the past few decades, that system has been under assault from people who would rather keep Hoosiers in the dark.

Operating under the pretence of saving taxpayers' dollars, lobbyists have successfully chopped away at the transparency provided by public notice advertising.

Older readers will recall when school corporation expenditures were spelled out in claims reports. That was killed thanks to a joint effort by the Indiana State Teachers Association and the Indiana School Boards Association. Teachers didn't like seeing their salaries published. School boards didn't like the public looking over their shoulder.

Older readers will also recall when the county commissioners claims for expenditures were routinely spelled out the same way. That was targeted by the Association of Indiana Counties, though most rural county officials will tell you they had no problem with making sure things were public.

Fact is, there has been a war on public notice advertising in Indiana for at least 20 years.

And the latest arrogance from IDEM is just the latest assault.

Those trying to keep Hoosiers in the dark will argue that it's all about the money.

But when the Office of Air Quality at IDEM said that eliminating the publication requirement could save $7,500, the Hoosier State Press Association offered to take over the job of placing public notice ads and handling tearsheets. At no charge.

It's not the money.

This newspaper would survive without public notice advertising.

But you - the reader, the citizen, the taxpayer, the voter - would be shortchanged.

And you'd be in the dark.

Then again, that seems to be what some folks want.