Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) has been a staunch supporter of keeping public notices in newspapers and online to ensure the numerous Florida businesses that AIF represents — 90 percent of which are small businesses — can easily locate and access critical information.
A recent Mason Dixon Polling & Research survey showed that Floridians have identified newspapers as the place they want to get this critical information.
Yet, each year, there are threats to move these notices to an online-only format that are often obscure or yet to be created.
If passed, these measures will diminish public notice, making it extremely difficult for businesses and individuals to find the critical information that notices communicate.
The 2018 Legislative Session won’t be any different. Currently proposed Senate Bill 898 and House Bill 691 will allow public notices to be published in a newspaper OR posted ONLY on “a public website that customarily conducts personal property auctions.”
If this legislation passes, the current notice requirement that leverages both the internet AND print media to cast the widest net before personal property is seized and sold at auction will, in actuality, be eliminated. Meaning the citizens and businesses across the state who regularly use self-storage facilities to store their inventory or equipment and who may fall behind on rent, for even a single month, could see their property seized and sold after only a single advertisement on an ambiguous auction website.
Florida’s businesses and individuals have the right to expect that before their property is indiscriminately sold at auction, either they, a relative, a friend, a neighbor or a customer, have an opportunity to discover that public notice in a trusted source, their local newspaper, as well as on that newspaper’s website and at FloridaPublicNotices.com.
AIF feels strongly that property rights must be central to the discussion on any potential changes to Florida’s system of public notice; because, the way the language in SB 898 and HB 691 is currently drafted, there is a real threat of greatly diminishing the due process protections the legislature put in place when allowing for the nonjudicial takings of property.
It is paramount public notice remains protected, and individuals and businesses’ personal property rights are preserved.
And, while we are hopeful the Florida Legislature, who have historically protected and even bolstered public notice by ensuring its broadest possible dissemination in print and online, will once again reject this bad public policy, AIF asks all lawmakers to VOTE NO on SB 898 and HB 691.
Brewster Bevis is senior vice president of State and Federal Affairs for the Associated Industries of Florida.