A freshman lawmaker is ready to fix an archaic Alabama law that mandates newspapers get tax dollars
The Alabama legislature has a lot on its plate this legislative session. There could be a gas taxes increase, a teacher pay raise, a Medicaid expansion and who knows what other ways the state’s leaders could come up with to spend tax dollars.
What we have not seen is a conversation about making government more efficient, but that may be changing.
Recently, many voters and some legislators have become aware of an antiquated state law that requires government entities, and even some private entities, to hand over money to Alabama’s local newspapers. The amount of money these companies are making is a matter of dispute, but across the state, the cost to local governments is sometimes in the hundreds of thousands of dollars range.
The printing of law notices, voter lists and other matters is big business for newspapers, large and small. The Democrat-Reporter of recent racist fame received $350,000+ from these notices last year and AL.com’s Alabama Media Group received over $500,000.
Needless to say, this information is quite shocking to the average person, and even freshman State Rep. Andrew Sorrell (R-Muscle Shoals) was surprised at the amount of money this law mandates be spent on legal advertising.
Sorrell was speaking to WVNN radio in Huntsville Monday and made it clear he is moving on this issue.
“I’ve decided that I am going to introduce a bill about this this session,” he said on “The Dale Jackson Show.”
Sorrell’s argument is one of fiscal conservatism and good government.
He added, “I think it’s really hard to make a case in Alabama that we need more taxes while we are not spending the money we have in an efficient manner.”
Getting the bill drafted and getting the bill passed are two totally different things. similar bills have made it through the Alabama State House only to die in the Alabama Senate, according to State Rep. Howard Sanderford (R-Huntsville).
But Sorrell and others may have a group of allies in this fight: Local government leaders.
Huntsville City Councilman Bill Kling called into WVNN after Sorrell’s announcement and said, “I was listening to you this morning and I just want to wish our representative friend Godspeed, because I think one of the best things any elected official can bring to the table is their ideas, their idealism. And if he can work this thing out, that would probably save the city of Huntsville, I think we figured, well over $100,000 dollars. I think technology has changed, as you mentioned, and we could be using the internet, and probably the Internet would get more attention. Again, it’s transparency, which is not a bad word. I just wish him well. I think it’s a great idea and I hope it’ll be something that would pass.”
If local governments would get behind this legislation, not only would they save their municipality money, they would help strike a blow for good government.
In the year 2019, there is no reason to be mandating the use of newspapers to notify the public of anything.
Sure, some areas don’t have wide access to high-speed Internet, but more people in Alabama have access to high-speed Internet than a newspaper subscription.
Any attempts to maintain the status quo on this measure is being done in the interests of newspapers and not in the interests of the citizens of the great state of Alabama.