The state of Florida needs to keep public notices public. 

Lawmakers should protect your right to know. 

Every action of government is your business.

Every document held in government halls is your piece of paper.

Every penny spent by government is your money.

From the courthouse to the statehouse to the White House, government belongs to the governed and not the governing.

You have the right to know what the governing are up to, always.

But a bill sponsored by State Rep. Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay) could hinder the public’s ability to know just what is happening.

Local governments — cities and counties — currently are required to publish public notices in the local newspaper.

The bill, which has passed through two Florida House committees and is expected to be considered by a third next week, would no longer require those governing bodies to do that.

Instead, local governments would only be required to post public notices on a publicly-accessible website.

They could still publish the notices in the newspaper. But would no longer have to do so.

An amendment was added to the bill prior to its passage through the latest committee Wednesday that would require governments in “fiscally-constrained counties”, i.e, poor, rural counties, to pass through an additional hurdle: a public hearing to essentially determine if it would be in the public’s interest to put notices on the governmental body’s website instead of the newspaper.

That should be easy to determine: it’s not.

Public notices should be placed where the public is most likely to see them, in the legal organ. 

When public notices are placed in the local newspaper, the advertisements are prominently displayed in the printed editions so readers can easily find out what government is doing. The ads are also placed online and can be searched in a very easy to navigate statewide database maintained by the Florida Press Association. That site can be found at: floridapublicnotices.com.

Giving local governments the option of either placing a notice on a government website or in a newspaper has never been a good idea.

The issue is all about the public’s right to know.

Every lawmaker should be wary of any measures that would erode the public’s right to know. 

It is a dangerous, and disturbing, precedent to set. 

Every penny government spends comes from the public’s purse. 

We have a right to know how and when taxpayer dollars are being spent. 

Public notices should be placed where the public will notice.

Burying information on a government website is essentially worthless.

This measure would be an erosion of Florida’s open government laws, an affront to transparency and a disservice to the people of Florida.

We encourage the public to take notice of lawmakers who are supporting the bill that would limit their right to know — we certainly noticed that District 10 Rep. Chuck Brannan (R-Macclenny) was in support during the Judiciary Committee vote this week.

We encourage Rep. Brannan, Rep. Bobby Payne (R-Palatka), who proposed the amendment, and other members of the House to consider the public’s right to know during the bill’s upcoming second reading in the house and to soundly reject this poorly conceived piece of legislation during the third reading and subsequent vote.

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