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Public Notice is under threat

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While this may sound like an efficient way to gain a new stream of revenue; this sort of publication does not meet the standard of the past; that publication is outside of government’s own halls.

In recent weeks we’ve seen governments around the world “switch off” the Internet denying access to its citizens. An Internet switch is currently being considered in Washington. In such a case, what would happen to the notice that the government is constitutionally required to provide?

Meanwhile, over 669,800 out of 2.2 million Tennessee households are still without Internet access.1 This means that those citizens’ chances of ever seeing a public notice will be equal to zero.

The elderly are the most vulnerable because only 28 percent of those 65 and older use the internet.2 While most of our legislators have a college degree, and 80 percent of those with a college degree have the Internet,3 legislators must remember, that equates to only 19.6 percent of Tennesseans4.

Only 35 percent of those without a high school diploma use the Internet. And a full 40 percent of those with a high school diploma still have no Internet in their home.

But even of those adults that have the internet – fully 50 percent say they never seek online news. Will they ever really look at a government web site for legal notices? The state budget is $29 billion.

It costs a just tenths of a cent per person to print a statewide legal notice informing Tennesseans of a state Constitutional Amendment -- about $17,000.

It costs just a few hundred dollars for your election commission to publish the ballot for upcoming elections. In danger, too, is publication of utility rate increases, annexations, zoning changes and city or county meeting notices.

Consider that the expense for most notices is not born by the government but by individuals who are seeking a court ordered legal claim to your property, to put you under lien, or to take some legal action that will affect your family. Public notice ensures that there is an attempt to reach out and notify you of some action that may affect your rights.

Most newspapers of general circulation post the notices on their Websites, but it is the printing; creation of a permanent record, and the circulation of the notice in the community where all can see it and decide upon its fate that serves to secure our Republic. Truly, publication is an essential price of democracy. 

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.  

1 http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2011/tables/11s1156.pdf 2 http://www.census.gov/prod/2009pubs/10statab/infocomm.pdf 3 http://www.census.gov/prod/2009pubs/10statab/infocomm.pdf 4 http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/47000.html

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