A few weeks back we wrote about House Bill 35, a measure sponsored by a number of Republican House members, none representing Jackson County or Western North Carolina, that would allow a dozen or so counties – including Jackson – to publish public notices on a county-maintained website instead of in local newspapers.
We reached out to Rep. Mike Clampitt, R-Swain, to gauge his temperature on the bill.
It was rather cool, and Jackson and Swain have been removed from the bill.
But HB35 is still around. And it turns out HB35 has a brother, HB51, which would remove the public notice mandate for a dozen counties down east.
If a bill includes only a small number of North Carolina’s 100 counties, it’s referred to as a “local bill,’’ and local bills aren’t statewide legislation and thus can’t be vetoed by the governor.
It sure seems like cobbling together a significant number of counties in separate bills is gaming the system.
The notices in question contain information the public needs to know, such as when public meetings are held or a zoning change that could turn the vacant lot down the street into a fertilizer plant. Proponents of the bill say it would save local governments money, but in fact they can generate money – for example, there’s a strong incentive to pay your property taxes if you know your name will be in the paper if you don’t.
We were not surprised, but were grateful, to see the Town of Sylva come down on the side of the angels in this matter when it approved a resolution opposing HB35, saying in part that “local newspapers are the primary source of information for many residents in NC and in particular in the Town of Sylva via the Sylva Herald” and that “local print newspapers are a vital part of the community.”
The upshot is that public notices should be where the public can find them. That’s what you would hope public leaders would think. That’s the case in Sylva.
On this issue, Sylva comes off a lot better than certain legislators down in Raleigh, and we appreciate that.
And so should the citizens of this fine town.