A reader called The Daily Independent on Friday with a bevy of concerns over what he’d just seen in the latest edition of the newspaper: A legislative proposal to remove paid public notices from newspapers and bury them on government websites.
This apprehensive citizen prefers to stay in the loop when it comes to information such as community meetings, school budgets, rezoning proposals and public works contracts. But he’s worried how he’ll do so conveniently if Republican State Rep. Jerry Miller’s legislation becomes law.
He is far from alone. Residents of Ashland, Boyd County and the rest of Kentucky would lose convenient access to this vital information about their local government’s intentions and activities.
Miller is from metro Louisville and he apparently has no notion of how his House Bill 195 would hide paid public and legal notices from the public’s attention by shifting them from newspapers to obscure local government websites, many of which contain static, dated information.
If he is aware, then shame on him for cloaking government transparency and discarding the very spirit of the state public notices law that requires general circulation newspapers to make them available to as many people as possible. Newspapers do that in print and on their websites.
You should also know the bill would create a hardship for many Kentucky newspapers, especially those in rural areas, who rely on the advertising revenue from public notices to provide local news and sports coverage that communities expect and need.
Put bluntly, Miller’s bill is an affront to the people’s right to know. It impedes community awareness of government. Folks with limited or no Internet service will be left completely in the dark about what their public officials are up to.
Government transparency is essential to democracy. If Miller’s bill becomes law, important information will take a turn toward opacity.
We urge our local legislators to oppose Rep. Miller’s misguided bill to remove public notices from newspapers. Let’s keep local government open and accessible to all Kentuckians. Not just those who might pursue government websites.