Businesses in the state’s two largest counties could soon find themselves escaping a cost — at the expense of local newspapers.
Without comment the Senate voted 16-14 Tuesday to eliminate the requirement for new businesses to publish their articles of incorporation and other legal notices in newspapers. With the House already having approved the measure, it now goes to the governor.
The measure pushed by House Majority Leader Steve Montenegro, R-Litchfield Park, requires the Arizona Corporation Commission to set up a special web site where new firms could “publish” their legal notices. Any firm that pursues that option could bypass the requirement that these notices must be published three times in a commercial newspaper in the county where the company does business.
Montenegro promoted HB2447 as good for economic development, saying he wants to ease the ability of individuals to start a business in Arizona.
And Scot Mussi of the Arizona Free Enterprise Club testified at an earlier hearing that Arizona is the only Western state that has such a requirement.
Montenegro agreed to limit his measure only to Maricopa and Pima counties. That was designed to address concerns that residents of some rural area might not have the same access to the Internet as others to look up these records.
But there also was a political component to limiting the scope of the measure. Similar bills in prior years to eliminate publication requirements statewide have been defeated as rural lawmakers opted to side with local publishers who complained that the loss of revenues could damage or even kill their newspapers.
That reprieve, however, could be temporary.
If Gov. Ducey signs this measure, that could pave the way to extend the law to the other 13 counties. It also raises the possibility that once lawmakers kill publication requirements for businesses, it is only a small leap to eliminate the mandate that cities, counties, school districts and government agency publish their own legal notices.
The measure came up two votes short when the Senate first considered the bill in March.
By Tuesday, though, several senators who had voted against the measure had changed their mind, including Republican Sens. Judy Burges of Sun City West, Adam Driggs of Phoenix and Bob Worsley of Mesa.
But Sen. Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix, who had supported the measure in March, voted against it on Tuesday.