PROTECTING GOVERNMENT TRANSPARENCY & OVERSIGHT
Transparency and open government are the cornerstones of our democracy. There is an ongoing effort to take published public notice out of newspapers and give control over the notice publication to local governments. These changes to the public notice laws will result in reduced transparency, fewer open government protections, and less oversight. The inherent inalterability of print, and the third-party oversight they provide, makes newspapers the logical best place for public notices.
- Public Notice is not simply about getting information to vendors – it creates an informed public concerning government expenditures and taxation, environmental issues and public meetings.
- Public Notice enables citizens to keep watch on their government and tax dollars. A lack of access to information about government spending can lead to corruption.
- Public Notice helps raise awareness about governmental and corporate projects and activities that impact the environment, the air we breath, our water supply, and the kind of world we leave to future generations.
- Public Notices must be unalterable, in case there is a challenge to the vailidity of a notice.
- Removing procurement-related public notice from newspapers will disenfranchise minorities, the disabled, the elderly and those in rural communities and will make it harder to reach HUB goals for large contracts. Minorities, the elderly, and disabled Texans – all of whom have statistically lower Internet access – have a right to information about their government.
Ease of Access/Archivability:
- Government websites impose a variety of obstacles to accessing public notices, including registration requirements, forcing the public to download one notice at a time, software incompatibility issues, and disclaimers for the content they provide.
- None of the proposals to move public notice to government websites have included details about standards for placement, archive requirements or a plan to provide independent verification.
- Newspapers maintain extensive archives with the ability to reproduce notices after publication, as well as the ability to supply an affidavit of publication. The proposed changes to current law do not require a similar commitment to access to published notices after the fact – a critical protection for local governments to be able to demonstrate compliance with the law.
- Public Notices published in newspapers are an affordable and efficient method to keep the public notified, are a tiny fraction of local governments’ budgets, and are a small price to pay to provide transparency. Newspapers are required by law to charge the lowest classified rate, and typically post notices on their websites for no extra charge and on a central industry website. Further, the Texas Press Association publishes public notices from newspapers in a single location on its website.
- Nothing in current law prevents governments from posting notices on their websites in addition to publishing them in newspapers. For many rural communities, the cost would be greater to put the information on the web (due to costs associated with archiving, ensuring compliance with publication guidelines, and publication verifications).