Keeping the people informed of government activities should be a top priority for elected officials.
Judging by four bills before the Texas House of Representatives, the opposite is true . ese
Th bills seek to allow cities, counties and school districts to publish all or some of their legal (public) notices on their own Web sites, with no requirement to publish them in newspapers with circulation in the areas served.
Full disclosure: Passage of any of these bills would affect the bottom line of this newspaper, but not significantly.
The objection to all of these bills is much broader.
Many legal notices involve bids for multimillion dollar projects and give notice of public meetings.
This is information that should have broad circulation so it reaches as many citizens and potential bidders as possible.
Most newspapers also publish legal notices in their online editions (as does the South Jetty). The Texas Press Association and the Texas Daily Newspaper Association publish legal notices from member newspapers on a Web site exclusively for that – texaslegalnotices.com. This means legal notices get circulation that far exceeds the letter and spirit of the law.
To eliminate the requirement to publish legal notices in newspapers and, instead, self-publish them on government Web sites may meet the letter of the law, but it falls far short of the spirit of the law. Is less transparency worth the minimal savings to the governmental entities? We think not.
The exposure a legal notice gets in a newspaper far exceeds the exposure it would get on a government Web site that gets far fewer viewers than do newspaper Web sites.
Governing bodies should still post these notices on their Web sites. But to limit publication to city, county and school Web sites is to limit public access. That is not good for government, and it is not good for people.
The bills are:
HB 507 - Would allow cities, counties and school districts to either eliminate or cut back to one publication public notices in newspapers. Current law requires two newspaper notices.
HB 1668 - Would allow school districts to self-publish all public notices on their Internet sites with no requirement for newspaper notices.
HB 1082 - Would allow smaller school districts to publish on their Internet sites all public notices if no newspaper is published in the district.
HB 1833 - Would drop the requirement of newspaper publication for certain notices of hearings and meetings by school board members.
These bills are in direct conflict with “government of the people, by the people and for the people.”
Urge your state representative to vote against all of these bills that stand as barriers between the people and their government.