Editorial: HB2554 takes away public access to info

A new bill in the Arizona Legislature, HB2554 - sponsored by Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Scottsdale - will take public notices out of newspapers and make them available online in a new database created by the Arizona Corporation Commission.

Why does this matter to you or me?

When a business files to incorporate in Williams and the surrounding area, the owners are required to publish a public notice in the newspaper. When a local government plans to begin large-scale projects, government officials are required to post a notice in the paper.

The new bill, if approved and signed, will result in less access to public information.

The way it works now is newspapers detail things like these each week in the "legals"

or public notices or legal notices section. The newspapers not only publish them in print, but also on the Internet. The Arizona Newspapers Association (ANA) also posts the notices on a statewide, searchable website.

Kavanaugh's bill requires the Arizona Corporation Commission to spend $65,000 in taxpayer money to create a website where information about corporate and limited-liability company filings would be posted for just 90 days. Currently legal notices are permanently available through the ANA website, printed newspapers and their online archives.

The bill would provide limited public access to information that is currently published every day. The bill eliminates notice and makes the public look for information they may not even know they want to find. That's the rub. Newspapers notify the public about events in the community including corporate filings and LLC filings. The new system would keep a lot of this out of the spotlight.

Is it just newspaper publishers that don't like the bill? No, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, area chambers and others are opposing this bill.

Now, in the name of transparency, let's look at one more fact. Newspapers make money from public notices. It's not a ton of money but it certainly helps small, weekly papers like the Williams-Grand Canyon News stay in business.

The bill's failure would also save private sector jobs that would become government jobs if the bill passed. A "no" vote most importantly protects independent news gathering on all business and other issues concerning Arizona citizens.

The bill would create a new tax on business and would create bigger government while hurting the private sector.

The current public notice system isn't broken. Why spend taxpayer money on a "fix."

Let your lawmakers know how you feel about this legislation, which appears to be a solution to a problem that does not exist.

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