Legislation by State Rep. Cynthia Almond (R-Tuscaloosa) to end requirements for local governments to advertise or publish notices in a newspaper narrowly passed a House committee last week.
House Bill 106 would allow county and municipal governments to satisfy notice requirements required by law by publishing the notice online on a municipality, county or state website.
Local governments are currently required by state law to publish notices on topics such as foreclosures, liens, government meetings, and court actions in newspapers.
The legislation passed out of the House County and Municipal Government committee on a 7-5 vote on Wednesday.
"This is something that's been obviously coming for a long time," Almond said in an interview on Friday with 1819 News. "At the end of the day, it's really just about how do we want to spend our money at the local level. It's giving local governments the option to save money here so that they can spend it on other things that they need to do."
Almond said, "The other important thing it does is it allows those communities, and there are plenty, who don't want to do this I guess and have a great working relationship with their local paper."
"It's something they can afford (and) they can keep doing things exactly the way they are currently doing them," Almond said.
Felicia Mason, president of the Alabama Press Association, didn't return a request for comment from 1819 News on Monday.
Mason told the Montgomery Advertiser last month the legislation would limit how many people can access public notices, reducing government transparency.
"Less access means less transparency and accountability," Mason told the outlet. "There is no argument that regardless of how you slice it, this is access-restrictive legislation. In many cases, those most affected will be seniors, rural Alabama and the less affluent."
In an interview with 1819 News on Monday, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox said, "I think it's a positive step forward," and Almond "knows that paying for police officers is much better than paying for publications."
"The city spends on average over $100,000 a year on this type of advertising, so it's very expensive," Maddox said. "We live in a modern age now where through websites, social media, the digital community…you can actually post more information in a more transparent way and be more effective."
He continued, "I think it's just modernizing local government, which is a very positive thing," and "the local newspaper here in Tuscaloosa has a subscription rate of about 13% of households across Tuscaloosa.
"How many people do you know who do not have some sort of smartphone? Some sort of ability to be able to access the internet? If anything this continues the access that the internet has provided and modernizes governments," Maddox said. "I don't think that taxpayers should have to pay for the old way of doing business, especially when there is a vehicle by which you can ensure that the vast majority of people have access to the information that is required in publications."
To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email caleb.taylor@1819News.com.
Don't miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.