Public notice bills: SPJVA works to protect right to know

The Virginia Pro chapter of SPJ was active during the 2013 session of the Virginia General Assembly, working to defeat public notice legislation that would curtail the public’s right to know.

The Code of Virginia requires the publication of public notices for a number of government activities, including requests for proposals for building projects, zoning matters or public meetings.

Such notices must be published in newspapers; the papers provide a widely distributed means to get the required information to the public in a timely fashion.

Six different bills this session would have removed such notices from newspapers and allowed instead postings on websites maintained by the state or by a locality.

The chapter, following the lead of the Virginia Press Association and the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, worked against these measures and to maintain the public’s right to know.

SPJVA president Paul Fletcher appeared before committees in the House and Senate three times, providing testimony against several of the bills. The chapter also mounted three email campaigns on the public notice bills.

Several of the bills died in committee. The last of the measures, House Bill 1823, essentially would have moved RFPs filed by localities to the state procurement site, eVA. It passed the House by a 3-1 margin.

But on Feb. 18, it was defeated by a 10-3 vote in the Senate General Laws and Technology Committee.

For more information about the bills, see the scorecard maintained by the VPA at its website.

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