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Keep the public noticed

If public notices were not published in newspapers, the community would not know about hearings, requests for proposals, companies that are forming and other actions by government. Newspapers have been a trusted third-party provider of this information and serve as a valuable check and balance to government. Newspapers ensure this information is posted in time to give the public ample time to respond.

A bill heard in House Government earlier this week, H2244, introduced by Rep. Andy Biggs, would have eliminated this important public function and allowed governments to post this information on their Web sites in lieu of complete publication. Governments claim they can access more people by posting these notices on their Web sites, and they can save money if they don’t have to publish.

But if access is an issue, why aren’t governments already posting this information online to access the most people possible? Cost may be an issue, but when you factor the cost of public notice versus the budget of a city, town or municipality – it is a nominal cost. They also argue that newspapers are archaic and noticing the public needs to be brought into the 21st century. Newspapers already post public notices on their Web sites at no additional cost and upload them to publicnoticeads.com, a Web site created by the Arizona Newspapers Association in 1998 that aggregates statewide notices in a searchable database.

Members of House Government heard the bill Feb. 23 and defeated it with six lawmakers voting against it and two voting for it. Lawmakers said it was premature to eliminate publication in a newspaper and move it to the Internet. They cited a few issues such as accessibility in rural areas. Tom Arviso, publisher of The Navajo Times, who testified at the hearing said The Navajo Times has 25,000 subscribers and a readership of 150,000. But 40 percent of the Navajo Nation does not have running water or electricity – let alone access to the Internet.

Before Biggs’ bill was defeated, H2302, a bill introduced by Rep. Sam Crump to create a study committee to review public notice requirements, moved through caucus with the support of Rep. Russ Jones. Last year, Jones was a proponent of removing publication requirements. This year, however, Jones said it was an issue that needed to be studied before any decisions are made.

Thank you to Reps. Adam Driggs, Frank Antenori, Chad Campbell, Judy Burges, Warde Nichols and Anna Tovar for opposing H2244 and preserving the public’s right to know at a time when government transparency is more important than ever.

- Ginger Lamb is vice president and publisher of Arizona News Service/ Arizona Capitol Times. She is also the legislative chair for the Arizona Newspapers Association.

What do you think?
• Would it matter to you if the only place you could read legal/public notices was on the Internet?
• Would you be likely to look up government or corporate notices on a government website?
• Do you like the idea of keeping public notices in print, delivered by a third party?
• Email your comments to ginger.lamb@azcapitoltimes.com

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