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FROM THE EDITOR HB106 leaves the public ‘in the dark’

109 newspapers deliver printed copies of the newspaper to homes across Alabama every week, with a presence in ALL 67 counties.

Currently, Alabama has a system in place that provides maximum access to public notices — both online and in print.

Public notices serve a crucial function in keeping residents and taxpayers informed about the activities of governments.

These government notices let citizens know about impending actions that can affect their lives, property, and community.

You’ve seen, and benefitted, from these public notices, which include reminders of upcoming meetings and hearings, proposed zoning and land-use changes, information on government budgets and taxes, requests for bids on government contracts, and details on foreclosures and abandoned property.

For decades, public notices have been required by law to be published in local newspapers.

But some members of the Alabama House of Representatives no longer think that public notices appearing in newspapers is relevant or necessary.

A bill (HB 106) filed by Rep. Cynthia Almond from Tuscaloosa, which was approved in committee recently, would allow these notices of local governments to be posted on a website controlled by the very government public notices are designed to oversee.

And the notices would no longer be required to be published in a local newspaper.

While Rep. Almond’s bill does not prohibit local government bodies from publishing public notices in newspapers, it removes the requirement for doing so, and that will most certainly result in local county and municipal governments discontinuing the publication of public notices in local newspapers.

We believe that unfettered government control of public information is a very bad idea. Government should not distribute its own public notices.

This is the wrong move today, tomorrow and for the future.

Every notice printed in a newspaper is already uploaded to an independent, statewide web site (AlabamaPublicNotices.com) and to the newspapers’ web sites. The public has free access to both.

Newspapers are reliable. A notice appearing in a newspaper is permanent. It cannot be changed or altered.

A printed newspaper cannot be hacked, where critical information could be added to or deleted.

There are literally billions of web sites. The public is far less likely to search for notices on a government web site than go to their local paper, where they are accustomed to finding notices.

Less access means less transparency and accountability. There is no argument that regardless of how you slice it, this is access-restrictive legislation.

In many cases, those most affected will be seniors, rural Alabama, and the less affluent.

This bill eliminates access for hundreds of thousands of Alabamians. People in rural Alabama – which is the vast majority of counties – have limited or no access to broadband.

Even in areas where there is availability, internet fees make it financially beyond the reach of many.

They still depend on the local paper for news and information on local, county and state governments.

Finally, should government entities EVER be in charge of posting their own notices? NO.

Requiring independent, third-party newspapers, newspaper websites and alabamapublicnotices.com, ensures that public notices run in accordance with the law. The fox should never be guarding the hen house.

Newspapers shine a light and offer transparency, trust, and integrity to keep readers informed.

For the Butler County State Representative District 90 contact Chris Sells at csea@centurytel.net or call 334-261-0568.

For the Butler County Senator District 23 contact Robert Stewart at robert.stewart@alsenate.gov or call 334-261-0860.

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