North Carolina Press Association urges opposition to electronic notice billl

From the NC Press Association:

Senate Bill 186 comes up for a hearing next Tuesday, April 9, at noon at the Statehouse in Raleigh. PLEASE contact your local senators on this committee (http://ncleg.net/gascripts/Committees/Committees.asp?sAction=ViewCommittee&sActionDetails=Senate Standing_72) and ask them to vote AGAINST this bad bill.

Please also be ready, if you are able, to travel to Raleigh on Tuesday to help us fight this bill – we’ll watch for changes in the timing of the hearing and keep you posted. But if you can, please let me know if you CAN come to Raleigh next Tuesday!

NCPA is preparing to file a piece of our own legislation next week aimed at ending the battle over public notices – for a while, at least. We’ll be sending details. But in the meantime, call and email your senators.

Here’s is NCPA’s stand on this bill (test is here: http://ncleg.net/Sessions/2013/Bills/Senate/PDF/S186v1.pdf)

At a time when fellow Republicans are offering bills strengthening public records laws and opening the government to more transparency, it’s surprising and disappointing to see lawmakers take a stance that undermines one of the basic rules of open government – the people have a right to see what their government is doing in their name.

· Public notices need to be public. Putting them on an obscure government web site – and most are – suggest the public has no right to know what the government is planning.
· Legislators many decades ago made it a legal requirement to run public notices in newspapers because newspapers were then and are now the first place the public looks for information about its government. . Newspapers run legal ads on their web sites as well these days – at no extra charge to the government, FYI – which adds a whole new audience.
· Legislators also wanted the law to mandate running such ads to prevent back-room behavior – keeping business practices in the sunshine and under the watchful eye of the public, which pays the bills.
· Many, many thousands of North Carolinians still don’t have affordable, easy access to internet service – how will THEY see these notices?
· A government website is not free to the taxpayers, and running ads on government websites could COST taxpayers MUCH more. It requires the governmental body to spend time and money to ensure that the site is secure. The notice must be handled in an error-free manner and posted for the proper amount of time. Verification procedures must be in place. Affidavits may need to be provided in some cases. These are services that newspapers now provide to public notice customers.

· What happens when a government entity runs a notice incorrectly? Lawsuits are sure to follow, and for smaller governments – that’s an unfunded mandate that carries a huge liability for government employees and the local residents.

· Who will monitor these ads to assure they comply with the law, and police them if they don’t? The government cannot police itself. History has proven that time and again.

Please let us know what you hear back – and as always, thank you for taking this fight on yet again! This is the sixth straight year and we have won over and over. That’s a streak worth fighting for!


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