Friday, April 24, 2009

O'Pake, Folmer back bill to keep public in the dark

State Sen. Mike O'Pake's hometown newspaper takes the veteran Democratic lawmaker to task for supporting a bill that would lift the requirement that public agencies advertise their legal notices in newspapers.

Senate Bill 419 "would open the door for abuses that could cost taxpayers much more than the cost of those ads," argues the Reading Eagle.

From a recent editorial:
Less than a year after Pennsylvania finally passed an Open-Records Act that was worthy of the name, some in the state Senate - including State Sen. Michael A. O'Pake - have taken a step that would undermine the transparency of government at every level in the commonwealth.

O'Pake, a Reading Democrat, is a co-sponsor of legislation that would end the requirement for the state, counties, municipalities and school districts to advertise their public notices in newspapers of general circulation. Instead, they would be allowed to post such legal notices on government Web sites.
O'Pake isn't the only area state Senator who supports the misguided bill.

Sen. Mike Folmer, a Republican who up to now has been a strong supporter of reform and open government, also backs the Senate move to keep taxpayers in the dark.

From the editorial:
Folmer, a Lebanon Republican, said he also supports the bill because government agencies across the commonwealth could save as much as $23 million annually in advertising, according to a study from the Harrisburg campus of Penn State University.
But the amount saved is insignificant compared to the billions government spends (and wastes) every year. One of the few ways taxpayer know how their money is spent is through legal notices.

"We understand and applaud almost any effort to save public dollars, especially now when so many people are out of work. But this effort would save money at the expense of openness, which could cost the taxpayers much more in the long run," the editorial concludes.

Read the full editorial at the newspaper's Web site and write to O'Pake and Folmer and urge them to reconsider their support of SB 419.


Anonymous said...

Right, Tony. The only reason the public shows up at meetings of public bodies is because of an advertisement in microscopic print tucked away in the midst of ads for used lawnmowers! Come on.

Anonymous said...

Newspapers should be reporting meeting information as part of their local news coverage. It's the lack of timely useful local news that is sinking local papers.