04/21/13 — News-Argus publisher shares his thoughts

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News-Argus publisher shares his thoughts

By Staff Reports
Published in News on April 21, 2013 1:50 AM

A state Senate bill that would allow some local governments the right to bypass printing public legal notices in nearby newspapers was discussed in a meeting of the Senate's Local Government Committee, leading to a confusing vote on the issue.

Committee Chairman Sne. Tommy Tucker, a Republican, said the measure carried 6-5 in a voice vote. That was disputed by some of those in attendance but Tucker forbid a show of hands and closed the meeting immediately following the vote.

News-Argus publisher Hal Tanner III questioned the vote. Tucker took offense at Tanner's remark, and, according to witnesses, told Tanner that "I am the senator. You are the citizen. You need to be quiet."

The real issue, Tanner said, is that the issue should be discussed on a statewide basis, rather than on a regional one.

"There is no doubt that newspapers are unique in their ability to provide the service of informing the people of a community about what their government is doing," Tanner said later. "We're the best way to information to the public, by far. A lot of folks don't have access to the web."

"This really is about the public's right to know," Tanner said. "People need to know where to find public notices. And newspapers and open government go hand in hand."

Tanner noted that another proposed measure had been introduced in the House that represents a compromise between the two sides.

House Bill 723 would still require local governments to publish legal notices in newspapers, but newspapers would be required to publish them on their websites without an additional charge, he said. Notices that require more than one publishing would be discounted.

The Senate committee that met Monday was aware of the existence of the House bill, Tanner said.