‘Our newspapers are struggling as it is’: Florida Legislature passes bill shifting public notices away from legacy media

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The House voted in favor of the bill, which now allows notices in free papers.

The Senate voted 26-13 in favor of changing requirements for Florida governments to notice meetings in local newspapers.

The legislation (HB 7049) would allow governments instead to publish notices digitally on websites maintained by county governments.

Sen. Jason Brodeur, a Lake Mary Republican carrying the bill in the Senate, said the bill opens up the ability of governments to put public notices out in more ways than ever possible.

“You want to give notice to the most amount of people possible,” he argued on the Senate floor.

Of note, the legislation still allows governments to put notices in papers. The Senate on Wednesday amended the legislation to make clear what publications could qualify to meet notice requirements, including any periodical that is “available to the public generally for the publication of official or other notices and customarily containing information of a public character or of interest or of value to the residents or owners of property in the county where published, or of interest or of value to the general public.”

Brodeur said that means an enormous amount of noticing. People will be able to read notices in free papers, high-circulation papers or on dedicated websites.

But that amendment means the bill will have to go back to the House. There, Rep. Randy Fine, a Palm Bay Republican and the bill’s sponsor, said he had no problem with the amendment. The House passed the legislation in a 79-40 vote.

Fine said while he had no problem with governments publishing notices in free papers or paid papers, he would not.

“To be perfectly honest, if this passes and I ran a local government, I wouldn’t be putting in newspapers at all,” he said. “I would be putting them online.”

Dropping any requirement for noticing in newspapers has alarmed publishers across the state, especially for small papers where such notices make up a large portion of revenues.

Brodeur said that can’t be what drives policy for the state. In a Rules Committee hearing, he said if a newspaper’s “business model is dependent on a government handout, that may not be a sustainable model.”

Sen. Gary Farmer, a Lighthouse Point Democrat, said on the floor that cutting money from newspapers will lead to a loss to journalism.

“Our newspapers are struggling as it is,” Farmer said. “Information is power.”

He said notices have allowed papers to hold on as more information shifts online. Increasingly, he fretted about corporate interests taking over the news.

If the bill becomes law, it will change notice requirements for the second year in a row. Critics note it has been just over two months since an arrangement negotiated as a compromise last year has been in effect.

Last updated on March 10, 2022

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected]


8 comments

  • Ron Ogden

    March 10, 2022 at 1:30 pm

    “Information is power,” he says. Well, we all know what power does. it corrupts.

    • TJC

      March 11, 2022 at 12:33 pm

      It sure has corrupted DeSantis…no, that’s not fair. He was a Trump Toady to begin with.

  • tom palmer

    March 10, 2022 at 1:41 pm

    Let’s keep the public in the dark so the special interests can rule. More corruption in Tallahassee.

    • just sayin

      March 11, 2022 at 10:34 am

      What are you even talking about? Gerald Ensley defended Gillum and company for years. The Tallahassee Democrat has enabled the corruption, not exposed it.

      • TJC

        March 11, 2022 at 12:36 pm

        Fox News enabled pathological liar Donald Trump throughout his corrupt tenure in the White House. So, yeah, you’re right, media can do bad things.

  • tom palmer

    March 10, 2022 at 10:34 pm

    I’d add because of a trial lawyer’s suit over ADA requirements a few years ago, will the legal ads on the government websites even be visible?

  • just sayin

    March 11, 2022 at 2:18 pm

    LOL. I didn’t vote for Trump so your sick burn is irrelevant, but you might consider that NBC gave him millions in free air time to get him elected in the first place. And continues to feature him constantly because he’s good for ratings. They know the sheep will hatewatch for him. Which only continues to sustain his national profile (and his enormous infantile ego).
    And there’s you, who posts about Trump in a Florida newspaper thread. Take a hard look in the mirror.

  • Treemain

    March 11, 2022 at 4:43 pm

    Print papers are a relic of the past. Allow them to die off just like the dinosaurs did.
    Anyone who is not capable of finding information online is also a relic.

Comments are closed.


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