Gov. Roy Cooper stood on the side of citizens Monday afternoon when he vetoed House Bill 205, a bill whose underlying intent was to cripple local newspapers but one that, in the end, would thwart the public’s right to know.
We applaud his willingness to see beyond the grudge-fest clearly on display by Sen. Trudy Wade, R-Guilford, as she attempted to bull-doze legislation through that would take a bite out of her own newspaper’s pocketbook. Along the way she attempted to bring down not just the Greensboro News & Record, but every newspaper in the state with a bill that would allow governments to post public notices on their own websites instead of advertising them in local papers.
Wade was able to convince her chamber, including our own Sen. Brent Jackson, to go along with the short-sighted and truly personal measure, but it faced an uphill battle in the House, where members like Sampson’s Rep. Larry Bell saw through the smoke-screen and, like Cooper, stood with citizens and the newspaper which serve as watchdogs for their communities.
With little chance of passage as it was, Wade amended HB205, an act to extend workers’ compensation benefits to certain inmates, and inserted provisions to take public notices out of Guilford County papers and eliminate the requirement that newspapers obtain postal permits in each county where they accept legal advertising.
As The Wilson Times noted, the new vehicle for Wade’s vendetta passed the House then 60-53.
But singling out one county was the beginning of the landslide that eventually would have caught all newspapers up in Wade’s selfish snare and, in the end would have prevented the general public easy access to notices they are used to finding in their hometown newspapers, particularly the poor, elderly and rural residents without internet services.
Cooper recognized all this and opted to stand with the public. We thank him on behalf of newspapers and the citizens we try so hard to serve.
“… Time and again this legislature has used the levers of big government to attack important institutions in our state who may disagree with them from time to time. Unfortunately, this legislation is another example of that misguided philosophy meant to specifically threaten and harm the media. Legislation that enacts retribution on the media threatens a free and open press, which is fundamental to our democracy,” the governor said about his decision to veto HB 205.
He’s right. We are glad our governor recognizes the need for a free and open press and, more importantly, understands and supports your right to information.