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Stickland bill would end taxpayer waste to newspapers

January 29, 2013

Bedford Republican says ‘ads on milk cartons’ would be better than newspapers

AUSTIN – State Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R–Bedford) today introduced a bill that could save Texas taxpayers millions of dollars by allowing counties, cities, school districts and other political subdivisions to post public notices on Internet web sites instead of buying advertising space in newspapers.

“The law that requires public notices to be printed in a newspaper made sense back in the horse and buggy days when newspapers were the only form of mass communication and most people subscribed to a newspaper,” Stickland said.  “But in the 21st Century, that requirement amounts to nothing but a taxpayer subsidy for the companies that own newspapers and it needs to go the way of the horse and buggy.”

Stickland’s bill, HB 335, would permit all political subdivisions in Texas to satisfy the public notice publishing requirement by posting the notice on their Internet website.

“It’s outrageous that taxpayers have to pay twice—once for the ad space and then again for a copy of the newspaper— just to get information that can be provided for free,” he said.

Stickland cited an October 2012 survey by the Pew Research Center that found only 23 percent of Americans read a print newspaper the previous day. Another recent survey by the Texas Public Purchasing Association showed that less than one percent of political subdivision vendors got their notice by reading a newspaper legal notice.

“When surveys ask people where they get their news, whether it’s from television, radio, Internet or newspapers, newspapers now come in dead last.  But that’s where the law, vehemently defended by newspaper corporate lobbyists, requires taxpayers to buy ads.  We’d reach more of the public by putting ads on milk cartons than in newspapers,” Stickland said.

“The newspaper lobby always says it’s not about the money, it’s about the public’s access to information.  I don’t buy it. If that were true, then they should print the governmental notices for free as a public service.”

Arlington mayor Robert Cluck  expressed support for HB 335, stating, “Arlington, like many cities, is watching every penny and finding cheaper and more effective ways to conduct business.  By posting notices on-line instead of in the newspaper, we believe we can save taxpayers money while reaching a broader audience.”

Likewise, Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley announced his support for the bill, saying, “Tarrant County is always looking for ways to create efficiencies and value for our taxpayers. If HB 335 becomes law, it could save Tarrant County taxpayers more than $50,000 per year. I commend Rep. Stickland for authoring this bill and strongly support its passage.”

Stickland said he welcomed suggestions from the public and from the media on ways to improve public access to governmental notices at the lowest possible cost to taxpayers.