Raleigh, N.C. — Local governments in 10 counties will be able to bypass requirements that they advertise public meetings in a local newspaper under a bill the state Senate approved Tuesday.
The measure, which received tentative approval Monday night, would apply to the county governments and city governments in Burke, Graham, Guilford, Haywood, Jackson, Macon, Mecklenburg, Swain, Union and Wake counties.
"It's an option," said Sen. Jim Davis, R-Macon. "They can do what they think best serves their people."
Opponents of the measure assailed it as hampering citizens' ability to know what's going on. Under the measure, governments that opt out of newspaper advertising would have to disclose meetings on a government website.
"A paper's website actually attracts more people than a government website," said Sen. Martin Nesbitt, D-Buncombe, adding that giving local exemptions would create confusion about what public notice rules applied in which counties.
On Monday night, Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange, noted that many local newspapers were small businesses that would be hurt by the loss of advertising revenue.
Davis pushed back on this argument Tuesday, saying local government shouldn't subsidize local businesses.
"North Carolina should not be part of the business model for newspapers in this state," Davis said. He also pointed to stories in newspapers about this bill that he said were not entirely accurate.
"If you're going to believe everything that's in the newspaper, you're going to be ill-informed," Davis said.
The bill now goes to the House.