Raleigh, N.C. — Vetoed legislation that could cost Guilford County newspapers money by allowing local governments to put public notices online instead of paying for advertising space lives again.
The proposal got tacked onto broader legislation earlier this year, but Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed that bill. Instead of attempting a difficult veto override vote, supporters took the idea and turned it into a local bill, which is not subject to veto.
This new Senate Bill 181, which once dealt with Winston-Salem elections, would affect only Guilford County, giving local governments there the option to put various public notices online. Current law requires them to place such notices in a local newspaper.
The measure cleared the House Rules Committee Wednesday morning and was headed to the House floor. Based on past votes, the bill has enough support to pass the full General Assembly.
Greensboro News & Record Publisher Daniel Finnegan spoke against the bill in committee, saying roughly 25 percent of Guilford County does not have internet service and arguing in favor of the status quo for transparency's sake. He also noted that newspapers already put legal notices online in addition to running them as paid advertisements in their print editions.
The money at stake is significant. The Jamestown News in Guilford County ran a headline back in July saying, "Trudy Wade's Bill Will Close Jamestown News."
Tallies from the city of Greensboro, Guilford County Commission, Guilford County Board of Education and the city of High Point put the total they spent on these ads around $149,000 over a year, but officials said totals can fluctuate significantly year to year. Guilford County's board clerk said the county spent an additional $237,000 over the last fiscal year on newspaper ads not necessarily required by law.
Some governments provided information from the 2016-17 fiscal year, others from 2017-18. Several said they don't code these costs specifically enough to provide exact figures and instead provided estimates. The money went to the Greensboro News & Record, The Carolina Peacemaker, the High Point Enterprise and The Greensboro Times.