It’s not over til it’s over. Legislators arrived at the statehouse in Trenton this morning, only to discover protesters from all over the state expressing their opposition to a pair of bills that would remove the requirement that legal notices run in newspapers.
NJ-SPJ was there too, thanks to board members Emily Kratzer, Bob Schapiro and Ron Miskoff. And as Emily, Bob and Ron said over and over again in interviews today, we oppose the bill for a multitude of reasons. Most importantly, it opens the door to corruption because it allows governmental entities to pressure cash-strapped news organizations to give them favorable coverage in exchange for potential revenues from legal notices. (Remember: the bill makes running the notices in a newspaper optional.) It also creates the temptation for politicians to hide information from the public in the far corners of governmental websites.
Supporters claim that the measure will save money — but how? If the ads are to be posted on governmental sites, those sites will need to be secured against hacking. That costs money. It also requires personnel, something that will certainly strain smaller communities. As for the proposal in the bill to create a state-wide aggregator website run by the NJ Office of Information Technology, that, too, will add up to more taxpayer expenses.
During their visit to Trenton, Emily, Bob and Ron managed to button hole Senate President Steve Sweeney, who, when pressed about why he allowed such a bad bill to move forward, replied, “I’m working on it, I’m working on it.”
Does this mean that there’s hope that the bill may be voted down after all? Votes for both the Assembly and the Senate are scheduled for this afternoon. Stay tuned!