We were recently asked to sign onto a letter opposing HB 633, legislation which would allow local governments to post public notices online, rather than buy advertisements in local newspapers. We politely declined, and I thought it would be beneficial to outline our rationale for those following this issue:
- In calculating the “costs” of this bill, opponents estimate up to 1,000 people would be laid off from newspapers (and collect unemployment compensation). In other words, government advertising is underwriting the newspaper industry, at a cost to taxpayers. This is another form of corporate welfare. Government payments to private industry are not the way to “create and save jobs”, promote economic growth or save money.
- HB 633 provides local governments with the option to use Internet notifications rather than newspaper announcements; it does not require it. Therefore, if the IT costs are higher for local governments, they would surely not choose this method or they could find ways to partner with other local governments. Local governments should have the freedom to find the most cost-effective means of providing public notices.
- Although it is true that many Pennsylvania residents don’t have Internet, it is also a fact that many residents don’t subscribe to a newspaper—and Internet usage is rising while newspaper subscription is declining.
- While we could possibly be supportive of compromise legislation that ensures greater transparency for residents and taxpayers, the status quo is simply untenable.