• 82°
franklin county times

Proposed bill puts local government transparency expectations under attack

For decades, public notices have been required by law to be published in local newspapers – but some members of the Alabama House of Representatives no longer think printing public notices in newspapers is relevant or necessary.

Public notices serve a crucial function in keeping residents and taxpayers informed about the activities of governments. These government notices let citizens know about impending actions that can affect their lives, property and community.

You’ve seen, and benefited, from these public notices, which include reminders of upcoming meetings and hearings, proposed zoning and land-use changes, information on government budgets and taxes, requests for bids on government contracts and details on foreclosures and abandoned property. Such notices appear every week the B section of the Franklin County Times.

A bill filed by Rep. Cynthia Almond from Tuscaloosa, which was approved in committee recently, would allow these notices of local governments to be posted on a website controlled by the very government public notices are designed to oversee – and the notices would no longer be required to be published in a local newspaper.

We join the Alabama Press Association in saying this is the wrong move – today, tomorrow and for the future.

Unfettered government control of public information is a terrible idea. Government should not distribute its own public notices.

Currently, Alabama has a system in place that provides maximum access to public notices, both online and in print. Public notices printed in a newspaper are also uploaded to an independent statewide website, AlabamaPublicNotices.com. Newspapers also publish public notices on their websites. Providing this service is also a source of revenue for newspapers, which support their ability to continue serving the community by disseminating valuable information and covering the topics the readership wants to hear about.

When their public notices are published in newspapers, government bodies can rest assured the critical information remains available to everyone in a format that has stood the test of time for accuracy and accessibility.

Why should public notices continue to be published in newspapers? The basis for doing so remains as important as ever:

  • Requiring an independent third party to publish the notices in accordance with the law helps prevent government officials from hiding information they prefer the public not to see. The government cannot be in charge of holding itself responsible.
  • Publishing the notice in a newspaper ensures the information is widely accessible to the public. Newspapers remain trusted sources of information that are available to everyone, regardless of whether a person has access to the internet or not.
  • A public notice must be archived in a secure and publicly available format. A public notice published in a newspaper is already archivable and accessible. This is particularly important for notices that contain information about government decisions and actions that impact individuals and communities for years to come.
  • The public must be able to verify that a legal notice is not altered after being published or placed only on a website that is vulnerable to today’s hackers. In a newspaper notice, an affidavit is provided by the publisher, which can be used in an evidentiary proceeding to demonstrate that a true copy was published, as well as the exact wording that was used.

While Rep. Almond’s bill does not prohibit local government bodies from publishing public notices in newspapers, it removes the requirement for doing so – and that will most certainly result in local county and municipal governments discontinuing the publication of public notices in local newspapers.

The more open and accessible government information is, the less room there will be for potential errors and possible abuse.

Tell your state representative to keep public notices where they belong – in the local newspaper.

Franklin County

NWSCC receives $18,000 in grants from Dollar General Literacy Foundation

News

Russellville equine therapy visits library program

News

Steam locomotive delivery to Red Bay delayed, arrives July 1

News

Local author holds book signing at RPL

Franklin County

Former Russellville resident performs ‘Miracle Worker’

News

Presenting: Miss Phil Campbell

Franklin County

All American Tang Soo Do students recognized

News

Russellville High School students sign to pursue fine arts careers

Franklin County

Football Funday, special needs probowl take place June 15

Galleries

PHOTOS: RMS students take the stage for spring sing

News

Russellville member named among finalists for GFWC Jennie Award

East Franklin

East Franklin Junior High celebrates May 21 graduation

Belgreen

Belgreen Class of 2024 celebrates graduation

Franklin County

Local churches plan Vacation Bible School programs

Galleries

PHOTOS: Tharptown High School Wildcats graduate

Galleries

PHOTOS: Phil Campbell High School students graduate

Franklin County

NEMCC announces more than 400 to spring vice president’s list

Franklin County

UNA releases spring dean’s, president’s lists

News

Roxy holds June 15 concert, plans other events

Franklin County

Free summer meal program available at Franklin County Schools

News

PHOTOS: Red Bay High School graduates celebrate

Vina

PHOTOS: Vina High School graduates celebrate

News

PHOTOS: Russellville High School Class of 2024 graduates

Franklin County

RPD, FCSO raise funds through softball game

x