New bill would threaten your right to know


With all that is going on, both locally and nationally, that we have chronicled in this newspaper, local officials and our newest state representative have supported a bill that would undercut the right of public to know what their government is up to and the information needed to have a voice.

House Bill 35 would allow the Richmond County government, and 13 others around the state, the option to publish all public notices that they are currently required to publish in a newspaper with paid subscribers on a website maintained by the county. These notices include information about cases of competitive bidding, rezonings, budget hearings, auctions, property transfers, delinquent tax notices, street name changes, and disruptive land-use changes that could reshape day-to-day life in your community.

Read the bill for yourself here.

HB35 is a “local” bill, meaning it affects 14 or less counties, that has the same wording of a statewide bill that was vetoed by the governor in the past, and represents an effort to gain traction on the issue with smaller bills in other counties, such as HB51, which is a clone and has 12 different counties signed onto it.

Ben Moss, District 66’s freshman representative and former Richmond County county commissioner, signed on to add Richmond County to this bill, without the knowledge of the county’s Board of Commissioners. The purported benefit of these bills is to save money, according to Moss and County Manager Bryan Land, but it will do nothing of the sort.

Since 2016, Richmond County has spent $68,543 to advertise delinquent taxes with the Daily Journal, but, after that advertisement, the county collected $231,178.26 in tax payments, according to the county’s own figures. How many of those people would have found out their name was on listed as having unpaid taxes were it not for the publicity provided by the Daily Journal?

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