Printed weekly and daily newspapers that have enjoyed century-old monopolies on the highly lucrative printing of government notices could lose that business if Florida State Rep. Randy Fine (R-Palm Beach) has his way. Fine announced today he’s introducing legislature that would create a free market for the advertising of public notices, things like sheriff’s auctions, debt notices, foreclosures or court actions.
Until now, government entities in Florida were mandated to use printed newspapers as conduit to the public, creating a $200 million windfall for the ink-and-paper business statewide.
Fine, who called his legislature the 2019 Public Notice Reform Act, now wants the part of the law that forces the use of printed newspapers gone.
“Right now, we believe that all of the state’s government entities are spending $200 million on such notices,” Fine said in a media gathering in Viera, Fla. “It’s a burden on the taxpayers, money that’s wasted. We all know how expensive newspaper advertising even if the number of readers is down.
“Whether it’s for public safety or cleaning up the (Indian River) lagoon, the money can be used for better things,” he said.
Fine’s law, which is being introduced on the Florida Senate’s side by Senator Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala), would allow government entities to publish their public notices on any media, including online, and including on their own websites. Fine added citizens will be able to get on a list and have all public notices from local municipalities and the state to be mailed to them at home, free of charge.
“When public notice laws were established, print newspapers were the dominant communications vehicle for citizens,” Fine said. “That’s no longer the case.”
Newspapers have worried for years that, in an era when commercial advertising is melting down to next to nothing, government too would pull its support. The law, if passed, could spell doom for smaller newspapers while providing a boost for online entrepreneurs and even television stations.
Fine described newspapers as being from a bygone era but still expects a fight from the newspaper lobby.
“I’m not one to walk away from a fight,” he said. “The horse and buggy industry also fought hard when it went away.”
Fine appeared alongside Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey and other local officials who said the law as it stands provides an undue burden on his office.
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