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Updated Mar 12, 2013 - 3:43 pm

House delays bill on newspaper public notices

PHOENIX — Republicans and Democrats in the Arizona House of
Representatives are forming a rare alliance aimed at protecting small newspapers
and government transparency.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle had harsh words Tuesday for legislation
that would allow some cities and towns to post public notices online instead of
in paid newspaper notices. Communities with populations smaller than 100,000
people would still be required to publish notices in newspapers under the
proposed law.

The bill moved forward in committee Tuesday before House leaders opted to delay
a vote that would have sent it to the Senate for approval. It was the only bill
being considered by the House Tuesday that didn’t receive a floor vote.

Critics said the measure would hurt local newspapers that depend on ad revenue
and make it harder for residents to follow government business. The newspapers
industry opposes the effort.

“Public notice is a fundamental right recognized by the founding fathers of
our nation,” said Democratic Rep. Bruce Wheeler of Tucson.

Republican Rep. Karen Fann of Prescott said some elderly, low-income and rural
residents don’t have access to computers or the Internet and would be left
behind if the measure became law.

Republican leaders pushing the bill seemed shocked and agitated by the united
front against the measure.

Republican Rep. John Kavanagh of Fountain Hills noted that some opponents of
the measure were frequent critics of government mandates and subsidies.

He said it was unfair to require local governments to spend money to publish
“absurd notices that no one even reads.” Kavanagh accused critics of the
measure of backing “corporate welfare to newspapers.”

Republican Rep. Bob Thorpe of Flagstaff suggested concerned residents set up
Web alerts to follow issues being considered by local governments.

Newspaper representatives argued in committee last month that having an outside
entity like a newspaper publish notices puts a check on government, because
otherwise important notices could be hidden on an obscure website or difficult
to find.

Similar bills in recent years have repeatedly failed to win passage.


Cristina Silva can be reached at


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