by Sam Hieb
News & Record reports:
The N.C. General Assembly approved a measure Thursday allowing local governments in Guilford County to publish required public notices on their own websites rather than on newspapers’ print and online pages.
The local bill, championed by Republicans and applying only to Guilford, passed the state House by just one vote, 58-57, after lengthy debate. House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Kings Mountain) voted “yes” to break the tie.
The Senate later concurred in the Republican “electronic notices” initiative that has been led by state Sen. Trudy Wade (R-Greensboro). The Senate voted 30-16 in favor, largely along party lines and with little debate.
As a “local bill,” the new law is not subject to veto by Gov. Roy Cooper. Interesting that debate in the House was “livelier” —as the N&R put it— and that the vote was tight, meaning several House Republicans voted against it, which flies in the face of the N&R’s editorial view that General Assembly Republicans march in lockstep with Moore and–for that matter—Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger. Vociferously defending the bill in the House was Guilford Rep. John Blust:
Blust turned the tables in the debate, asserting that “I would venture to say that there has been a vendetta by the publication against Sen. Wade.”
Blust added that many more people have access to the internet in Guilford than subscribe to newspapers and even fewer of those newspaper subscribers regularly inspect the legal notices and other public messages.
“I think in the urban counties, it is time for this to be done,” Blust said of the move to government websites, noting also that he understood why rural legislators were leery because broadband internet service is more sparse in their jurisdictions.
That’s something that’s never pointed out —you have to subscribe to get access to a newspaper’s electronic edition. Whenever the subject of media comes up in general conversation, I always ask for a show of hands to see how many people subscribe to the N&R, and I’m shocked at how many people no longer do. With that in mind, you could make the argument that by making its website a subscription service, the N&R plays a greater role in restricting access to legal notices.
Last but not least—N&R columnist Susan Ladd pens a letter to Sen. Trudy Wade, the lead advocate for the bill, asking “was it something we said.” I’ll go out on a limb and speak for Sen. Wade and say yes it was something you said, Ms. Ladd. It always is.