OUR POSITION: There is still time for the public to let legislators know they want to be able to read public notices in their newspaper.
Tuesday, when House Bill 7 is scheduled to go to the House floor for a vote, is a critical test in newspapers' fight to keep legal ads in print. If you prefer to be able to read about changes coming in your neighborhood, job opportunities in government, who is getting contracts for government work and other important public information in your newspaper, you need to let legislators know.
We've written extensively about this issue. Some lawmakers believe it will save governments money to publish these legal notices on government websites and pull them from community newspapers. We don't agree, for several reasons.
As we've pointed out before, publishing notices in the newspaper provides a convenient opportunity to learn what is going on in your neighborhood. You don't have to go online and search for the proper site on a government webpage, never knowing for sure what day any particular notice might show up. And, also as we've pointed out before, there is no oversight as to when the notices would be put online or anyone monitoring to make sure the notices that are required to be publicized are put there.
Newspapers provide a third party confirmation that notices are printed as they should be. If HB 7 passes, the local governments will be responsible to make sure notices are posted. That is akin to the fox guarding the henhouse.
Arguments by those lawmakers in Tallahassee who would take away this important source of income for newspapers argue, among other things, that newspapers are no longer relevant and aren't read. That is just not true. There are 7.5 million Floridians paying to read a newspaper daily and weekly. And newspapers have their own websites where notices are also published to an audience that is 10 times greater than most city or county websites.
Newspapers are also required to post notices to an aggregated website (floridapublicnotices.com), which is free and easily accessible.
A survey conducted by Mason Dixon Polling & Research showed that 83% of Floridians say state and local governments should be required to publish public notices in newspapers on a regular basis. That same poll said that 68% of Floridians believe they would not seek out public notices published on a government website.
We would ask all Floridians to take up our cause and keep special notices in print. Call your legislator and tell him to not vote for HB 7.