The Free Press, Mankato, MN


February 14, 2014

Our View: Public access threatened by proposed law

Why it matters: Government wants to limit and restrict information to citizens

Counties across Minnesota, including Blue Earth County, appear ready to pull the plug on the public having easy access to public business through public notices.

Blue Earth County and other counties around the state have passed resolutions supporting a bill at the Legislature that would allow counties to publish public notices only to their websites and not in newspapers of record or the highly-trafficked websites they operate.

The bill — S.F. 1152 and H.F. 1286 — would allow them to opt out of publishing the notices to places they would reach far more of their constituents than the county websites can reach.

The Association of Minnesota Counties has recommended counties approve resolutions to this effect. Blue Earth County appears to have blindly complied with this request Tuesday when it passed a resolution that states, in part, the government knows best when deciding what citizens should know.

Other counties, including Yellow Medicine, have rejected the proposed resolution.

Citizens should be concerned any time a government body passes a resolution that states the government “should have the authority to determine the best and most efficient method of communicating information to citizens.” Sounds like a resolution you might find in the book “1984” by George Orwell or in the bylaws of the former Soviet Union.

The Minnesota Newspaper Association, of which The Free Press is a member, is fighting the Legislation. A cynic could argue newspapers are trying to protect their business as there is a fee for publishing the public notices. But the essence of the law is more concerning to news organizations than the money.

It effectively restricts the easy access the public has to information.

The resolution passed by Blue Earth County offers a wild claim that “county websites are increasingly the first place citizens look for information about their counties,” and “the ability of county websites to provide citizens with up-to-date, detailed information exceeds that of print media.”

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