‘No’ to HB 335

Bill would let political entities dodge posting notices in papers

Even before the Texas Legislature began its 2013 session there were a number of bills filed. This isn’t unusual, of course nor is the fact that more bills are filed than will ever see the light of day.

A famous Rockdale Reporter headline of 1903, with more than a little editorializing, trumpeted: “Bills Introduced in House and Senate: Some of Them Important.”

Not much has changed in 110 years. One bill filed New Year’s Eve, 2012, would be very important if it passes, but in a very negative way.

State Rep. Jonathan Strickland (R-Bedford) has filed HB 335 intended to amend the government code by allowing a political subdivision—city council, school board municipal development district, to name three—to satisfy the current state “notice by publication” law by publishing its legal notices only on the entity’s website.

Currently, those notices get printed in newspapers. Now, certainly nothing in current law prohibits those entities from also putting their public notices on their own website. It’s just that the new bill—and one like it seems to come along every session—would relieve entities of their long-standing practice of putting them in the paper.

Sure, newspapers are not going to like that, you say. What’s the big deal? Just this.

• Compared to the readership of newspapers—especially community newspapers, which are called that for a reason—very few local citizens regularly go to an entity’s website to search out legal notices.

• Legal notices published in newspapers, like The Reporter, automatically go online at no extra charge and those notices are collectively published on a statewide website operated by the Texas Press Association.

• Doesn’t it save taxpayer money by not having to pay for notices to be printed in the paper? Well, in 2011, Texas counties used a whopping five one-thousandths of their budgets on legal notices regarding procurement. And, by law, publications must charge their lowest classified rate for public notices. Wish all taxpayer money was that well spent.

• And, maybe the most important of all. The newspaper isn’t owned by the government entity.

That may not be a consideration in Rockdale, but you can be sure it will be somewhere.—M.B.

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2013-01-10 digital edition

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