Opinion

State House, Senate back public notices

Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Tennessee House of Representatives gave final approval March 25 to the Tennessee Press Association-supported bill requiring newspapers that publish public notices to post them on their local website and also to www.tnpublicnotice.com -- TPA's statewide aggregate website.

The bill, which takes effect April 1, 2014, also stipulates those extra services will be at no extra charge.

House Bill 1001 was sent to Gov. Bill Haslam's desk on a 94-1 vote after State Government Committee Chairman Ryan Haynes, the Knoxville Republican and prime House sponsor, explained the open government aspect of the legislation.

Haynes explained the bill was supported by TPA-member newspapers because "they are committed to open government, and this is one more service they can provide to make government more open and more transparent."

In a brief exchange, Rep. G.A. Hardaway, D-Memphis, told Haynes it didn't seem appropriate for the legislature to "be telling the newspaper what they can and can't charge for." Hardaway was the lone "no" vote in the House.

"Because it gives more people the opportunity to see public notices, they (TPA members) are willing to take that cost on," Haynes replied.

The Senate version of the legislation, SB461, passed the Senate on March 14 -- 11 days earlier -- after Senator Ken Yager, R-Harriman, cited the value of independently-published public notices as a key component of "openness in government." The vote there was 31-1, with Senator Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, casting the lone "no" vote.

Campfield had previously sponsored legislation to take all public notices out of Knox County newspapers and put them on the county government's website for 18 months. He called it a "pilot" project.

A list of 23 House members joined Chairman Haynes as co-sponsors of the legislation. Co-sponsors included:

Speaker Pro Tem Curtis Johnson, R-Clarksville; Reps. William Lamberth, R-Portland; Art Swann, R-Maryville; Bob Ramsey, R-Maryville; Eric Watson, R-Cleveland; Jimmy Matlock, R-Lenoir City; Vince Dean, R-East Ridge; Mike Harrison, R-Rogersville; Ron Travis, R-Dayton; Jimmy Eldridge, R-Jackson; Joe Pitts, D-Clarksville; Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet; Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville; Bill Sanderson, R-Kenton; Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah; Mike Sparks, R-Smyrna; Kent Calfee, R-Kingston; Mary Littleton, R-Dickson; Tilman Goins, R-Morristown; Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville; Harry Brooks, R-Knoxville; Joe Armstrong, D-Knoxville; and Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland.

Senate co-sponsors of SB461 were: Sens. Becky Duncan Massey, R-Knoxville; Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma; John Stevens, R-Huntingdon; Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga; and Doug Overbey, R-Maryville.

The Associated Press and the Knoxville News Sentinel contributed to this report.

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