Access to information crucial to state’s citizens

KRS 424 outlines requirements of Kentucky’s public notice laws. From information about municipality and public school budgets and taxation rates, public land transfers and zoning changes, contract bids for public projects, property foreclosures and takeover, and so much more, the statutes mandate the public is to be informed of these matters through advertisements placed in newspapers of general circulation.

These laws are in place to protect the public’s right to know and guarantee transparency in government activity.

Legislation proposed by Rep. Jerry Miller, a Republican who serves parts of Jefferson and Oldham counties, would be a derailleur to your right to information about what government is doing with public money.

HB 195 would give local governments the option to post required public notices on websites the entities operate and control rather than in newspapers as required by law. The result would be the necessity for a resident to go to the website of each and every public agency and department to find out what’s going on in their city and county.

Elected officials should be held accountable for making it easier for the public to have access to public notices, not creating inconveniences or obstacles to this information.

The public’s right to know would be subverted if government entities are allowed to choose when, where and how such information is made available. Kentucky’s newspapers have long been a readily accessible and affordable source for public legal notices. The state’s newspapers are where the public looks for and expects to find such information.

Miller said his bill intends to save public agencies money while bringing public notices “into the digital age.” Perhaps he isn’t aware the Kentucky Press Association has been aggregating public notices on a single searchable website at no additional charge to the public agency since 2010. The information found online at kypublicnotice.com is searchable by city, county, newspaper title and date of publication.

The News-Enterprise and every other newspaper of record across Kentucky depend upon public notice advertising with other streams of revenue to help pay for our responsibilities to journal life in the communities we cover, including serving as the watchdog of the public’s trust.

Even though it would be nice for all Kentuckians to care about the operational health and viability of their local community newspaper, it’s naive for those of us in the business to believe everyone – or anyone – would. However, you should care about how local elected officials and municipalities conduct your business and spend your tax dollars.

HB 195 makes it more difficult for you to do so.

The bill is in committee and as chairman of the House State and Local Government Committee, Miller is sure to get his bill pushed through to the House. Hardin County’s state legislative delegation will best serve local constituents by voting down Miller’s bill.

Upholding the public’s right to information is a non-negotiable for any elected official and government bodies at all levels.

— The News-Enterprise