Tallahassee Democrat by Barbara Peters Smith
February 11, 2020
Sarasota Herald Tribune Editorial Board
Another sideswipe at the public’s right to know is making its way through the Florida Legislature. It won a key committee vote in the House last week, and a companion bill is due for a hearing today by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
This mistake should end right there.
The legislation comes wearing the fine clothes of a good idea. HB 7 and SB 1340 propose to allow Florida governments to bypass the process of publishing advance notice of their doings in local newspapers and instead post such information on websites. The argument is that this would save taxpayer dollars, and offer a paperless option that is environmentally friendly.
The bills are opposed by Florida Tax-Watch, a nonpartisan advocate for accountability, on the grounds that removing public notices from print will restrict the number of Floridians in the know. Not surprisingly, the Florida Press Association — which has already invested in a searchable website that aggregates all notices published in Florida newspapers — is fighting the legislation for the same reason, and also because the business of providing public notices is a significant factor in local papers’ revenue streams.