Basement Beat: Here's the new public notices reform bill

By: 
Ryan Lewis, Editor

UPDATE: I found out after publishing this column that the bill may be up for a vote in the Local Government committee next week.

A reader had recently asked me to track down the bill number for Rep. Amanda Price's re-introduced legislation to phase out the requirement for municipalities to publish public notices in local newspapers.

Seeing as I'd already done the work to find it, I figured I should share it with more than just her.

It appears to be HB 4183. In scanning it breifly, it appears unchanged from the one the state House passed in December. Quick reminder: Representatives Genetski and Yonker voted in favor. Genetski is no longer in office; Yonker is.

It was not made into law because the Senate did not put it to a vote. That was because Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville didn't like the bill. Senate and House leaders this time both want it to pass.

Once again, I am grateful the state legislature is so timely and accessible with its website (that's not actually sarcasm; the website is updated constantly and is generally very informative). Here's the website you can follow the bill's progress as it goes from House committee to the House floor to the Senate to the governor's desk.

At the bottom of that page are the extremely valuable analyses provided by the legislature's two fiscal agencies. Nominally, the reports are designed to inform legislators about the expected costs and ramifications of any given bill. Usually, they provide much more than that and often include background information on why the bill was crafted as well as issues supporters and detractors have raised about the bill. Where bill language is almost unreadable, the analysis tends to be much, much easier to wade through.

Here is the analysis from the House Fiscal Agency on HB 4183.

For now, I hope to find out more about the section of the bill I find most insulting, a provision that purports to allow voters to gather signatures to put a measure on the ballot to force their local township, city, etc., to keep publishing notices in the paper for five years.

So many questions: Don't we already have that right? Why only five years? Why is it set up like this and not the other way around—where voters would have to organize to force the municipality to stop publishing in the paper.

So much incredulaty: We can't get people to the polls to vote; why should they need to take on the back-breaking effort of gathering signatures to put the referendum on the ballot?

All of which leads me to believe it's meant to sound accommodating and give power to the people; in reality, these referendums would rarely happen. I'm sure Price, the bill's sponsor, know this—which is why it's so insulting.

“Basement Beat” is an online suppliment to my regular column in The Allegan County News, "Out of the Basement Office."

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