Press Release from Education Public Policy Consulting, Former Republican Rep. Susan Lynn of Mt. Juliet; March 27, 2011:
Public Notice Bill Panned by Former Colleague
Senate Bill 115 by Senator Stacey Campfield is being met with objections from EPPC, a non-profit public policy organization in Tennessee. The bill, which sets up a pilot project that would cause publication of public notices to cease in Knox County and instead place them on a website, is slated to be heard on Tuesday in the State and Local Government Committee of the state Senate.
Former State Representative Susan Lynn is now leading EPPC. Lynn was in the House with the bill’s sponsor and says although she thinks a lot of Senator Stacey Campfield, “This is an imprudent way to try to save a little public money.” “Most people don’t consider it a waste for the government to make a public announcement about an upcoming election, Constitutional Amendment, proposed tax increases, a zoning change or annexation – such announcements protect our rights.” said Lynn.
Lynn feels the stated premise of the bill is a red herring because the government doesn’t need permission to put public notices up on a website but that the real goal is to cease the publication out in the community. Lynn, an economist, considers herself a staunch defender of open government. She says that her organization has to speak up and alert Tennesseans to the unintended consequences of such a policy change. “We can’t just think about the immediate effects of a policy, saving a little money in a tight budget year, but we must consider the end effects of any act or policy – in this case, a less informed citizenry because too few will ever seek to browse through mundane public notices on a website, and many Tennesseans still have no Internet access.” Lynn further explained “the state policy of publishing public notices is built upon an important principle behind our Constitution and state law – that is, if the government intends to take some action that will limit or change our rights, or that may take our property, then government must go out and seek to provide public notice to the community.” Lynn adds that inside the halls of government has never been enough to constitute public notice so a website, which is passive and controlled by the government, should not count.
Lynn’s organization is opposed to Campfield’s bill and some ten other similar proposals. One measure would end the requirement for publication of the sample ballot 5 days before an election. Other measures would cease publication of eminent domain takings.
“I can almost hear the politicians now meeting the taxpayers anger with scornful blame because the taxpayers didn’t dutifully check a government website to see if their taxes were about to be raised or if an important meeting was to be held.” stated Lynn. “EPPC’s position is that public notice is not a trivial expense to be done away with in lean budget years but rather it is an essential price of democracy.”
Concerned Tennesseans can contact the Tennessee State Senate’s State and Local Government Committee Members at www.capitol.tn.gov or you can find more information on EPPC’s website www.publicnoticetn.com.
Susan Lynn was state representative in the 57th House district from 2002-2010. She is leading EPPC – Education, Public Policy Consulting, a 501 (c)3. For more information visit www.publicnoticetn.com.