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 bills sponsored by State Rep. Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay) in the Florida House and Sen. Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) in the Senate would 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 bills, which have passed through three Florida House committees and is now headed to the House floor for a vote while the Senate version had a hearing by the Judiciary Committee temporarily postponed Tuesday, 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 bills 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 encourage Rep. Chuck Brannan (R-Macclenny), Rep. Jason Shoaf (R-Port St. Joe), Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Fleming Island), Sen. Bill Montford (D-Tallahasee) and other members of the House and Senate to consider — or reconsider — the public’s right to know and to soundly reject this poorly conceived piece of legislation.