Internet Notice Bill Heard in House Committee
On April 1, the House Committee on Government Efficiency and Reform heard H.B. 3646 by Representative Linda Harper-Brown. The bill would give a city the discretion to provide public notices on its Internet website rather than paying for newspaper publication if the website reaches more readers. Rep. Harper-Brown had hardly begun laying out her bill in her committee before other committee members began to attack her idea as harmful to local newspapers.
The vociferous opposition to the bill by members of the committee was surprising. The fact that many newspapers and related associations attended the hearing to testify against it was not. Opponents argued that eliminating a print publication requirement dramatically reduces government transparency. Of course, that argument ignores the fact that print newspaper readership is declining every year. A 2012 study by the Pew Research Center found that only 23 percent of Americans read print newspapers, and that number had declined by 18 percent over a ten-year period. Burying a public notice in a newspaper that not even a quarter of the citizens read would not appear to promote government transparency.
The League joined other local officials to testify in support of the bill. Testimony showed that not only would H.B. 3646 increase government efficiency by potentially saving cities and taxpayers thousands of dollars, it would actually increase transparency by requiring a city to use whichever medium, be that a newspaper or the Internet, that reaches the largest number of residents.
The bill was left pending in committee. To view the public testimony on the bill, click on the link and fast forward to 3 hours and 44 minutes into the hearing: