Did the Florida Legislature pass this bill to punish newspapers? Some lawmakers say yes


TALLAHASSEE — For the second time in 11 months, the Florida House voted on Thursday to send a bill to Gov. Ron DeSantis that would strip Florida’s newspapers of legal notice revenue.

Some lawmakers said the move is a jab at publications that sometimes publish stories and editorials critical of the Republican leadership in Florida.

“The free press here in the free state of Florida isn’t reporting what the governor’s communications director wants it to report,” Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Lighthouse Point, said during a committee hearing on the bill this week.

Supporters of the measure say it shouldn’t be the state’s job to make local governments subsidize newspapers. They say the measure will make notices more widely accessible to Floridians — who may or may not subscribe to a newspaper.

In Florida, local governments are required by law to publish certain notices in print newspapers or on newspaper websites. Those notices include updates on government meetings and budgets, code enforcement notifications and hazardous waste disposal notices.

House Bill 7049, which now heads to DeSantis, would eliminate the requirement for local governments to publish those notices in a third-party publication. Instead, governments would be allowed to publish them on a county website.

The measure cleared the Senate 26 to 13, and the House 79 to 40, mostly along party lines.

Sen. Jason Brodeur, R-Lake Mary, spoke in favor of the bill, saying governments should direct tax dollars “towards the most vulnerable,” and not to companies that make a product that “nobody wants.”

But detractors of the measure, including newspaper publishers, say legal notices contain important public information. Notices should be published by an independent third party because governments have no incentive to publish legal notices in a way that is easily accessible for Floridians, they argue.

Critics also note that under the new bill, the state’s legal notices could be strewn across 67 different county websites instead of the centralized clearinghouse run by the Florida Press Association — Floridapublicnotices.com. (That association represents dozens of newspapers, including the Tampa Bay Times and the Miami Herald.)

Click here to read more on Tampa Bay Times Website


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  • paulj

    Calling BULL*@! on this story. Pity the Tampa Bay Times: even when a story is about your own back yard, you fail to resist the need to make it D/R political clickbait! Wouldn't the legislature and governor also be harming all the "Republican" newspapers?

    Instead of rallying all the people behind the notion of maintaining open government, cry like little babies about losing money. Yes, the money is important. But while you focus on the sore spot (just as government wants you to), you miss the story and squander an opportunity to gather all the people to the side of "the fourth estate".

    Tell the story to the people: why this is bad for them (not why this is bad for you!). Instead you tell them it is an argument about publishing in print or on a website...the people do not care about that argument, which means you have lost the argument.

    The real story here is that in every state, government is attempting to shut down ALL transparency to the press. If "the press", as described in the First Amendment, does not wake up and push back, all FOIA laws will be diluted this year. That is the story you should be telling all people.

    Friday, March 11, 2022 Report this

  • BMWood

    I’m sorry. Your story misses the most important argument to keep legal notices in newspapers of general circulation. A public notice published in a newspaper can’t be altered after the fact. It’s proof IN COURT that the entity gave proper notice. A website notice can be easily altered or even counterfeited after the fact. How much is it going to cost the noticing entity if they are sued because the person or persons affected claim they were not properly notified. How does the entity prove conclusively that proper notice was given if it’s not published by an independent third party? If what they are doing or what they want to do is stopped or reversed versus the cost of a legal notice that’s actually published?

    Friday, March 11, 2022 Report this

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