Members of the North Carolina House of Representatives have an important decision to make. Either they value the free flow of information between the government and the citizenry or they want to allow governments to hide their activities from the very people who elected them in the first place.
Senate Bill 287, subtitled “Notice Publication By Some Local Govs.,” was already approved by the state Senate, and District 44 senator David Curtis voted to approve the bill. The bill has now moved to the House and is scheduled for a vote later in the week. Senate Bill 287 would remove the requirement that local governments in several North Carolina counties publish important legal notices, like zoning changes and environmental notices, in the local newspaper. It instead allows governments to publish those same notices on their own websites — places the average person rarely, if ever, visits. House Bills 504 and 755 and Senate Bills 287 and 186 have the same aim.
Lincoln County is not included in the bill, but our neighbors in Burke and Mecklenburg counties are, as well as several others throughout the state. If the bill passes, be assured that it won’t be long before Lincoln County is in the crosshairs.
Supporters of the bill have argued that its aim is to save taxpayer dollars but, according to the North Carolina Press Association, “no local government has substantiated that claim — especially in light of the added costs that will fall to them to run a better web site, maintain it, provide proof of publication, increase security and keep up on changes in the law that will impact running public notices.” The bill appears to be little more than an effort by government to police itself — and we know how well that has worked in the past.
House Bill 723 offers a better alternative. The bill requires that newspapers publish legal notices in print as well as on its website, with online publication at no extra charge.
We urge citizens of Lincoln County to contact House District 97 representative Jason Saine and ask that he vote “no” on Senate Bill 287. The best public is an informed public and politicians in Raleigh should not decide whether citizens have a right to know what their government is doing.