PressWire

Gov. Roy Cooper Protecting the First Amendment Rights of Guilford County newspaper and its citizens by vetoing House Bill 205

Now, we as a group ask Guilford Republicans Jon Hardister, John Faircloth and John Blust to reconsider their support for a bill that would hurt their constituents.

 

We want to thank Gov. Roy Cooper for protecting the First Amendment rights of Guilford County newspapers – and by extension, the county’s citizens – by vetoing House Bill 205.

HB 205 was originally written to change provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Act as it relates to employing prisoners. But near the end of the General Assembly session, a rider was attached to the bill that would have created a pilot program in Guilford County that would allow local governments to remove public notices and legal advertisers from newspapers and their web sites and place them on government web sites.

As Gov. Cooper said in announcing his veto, “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.”

HB 205 is just the latest example of North Carolina legislators using their clout in the General Assembly to settle personal scores.

The pilot program targeting public notices and legal advertising was originally part of Senate Bill 343, sponsored by Sen. Trudy Wade, R-Guilford. Sen. Wade says the change would improve transparency and the public’s access to important information.

Three Democratic legislators from Guilford County said the true aim of the legislation was to damage the News & Record.

The bill would have a negative financial impact on the News & Record and the High Point Enterprise, but the damage would be far greater for the Jamestown News and the Peacemaker. The Jamestown News would likely go out of business if the bill becomes law.

The four newspapers have joined together to protect the public’s right to information about actions being considered by local governments. We know that far more people read our papers and websites than read local government websites. We are troubled by the loss of transparency that would no doubt result from government controlling how this information is shared. We see no benefit to the public that would come from this bill becoming law.

Now, we as a group ask Guilford Republicans Jon Hardister, John Faircloth and John Blust to reconsider their support for a bill that would hurt their constituents.

We ask the 14 Republicans members of the House who voted against this bill in June to stand firm and vote to sustain the governor’s veto on Aug. 3.

We ask that the five Democrats who voted for the bill as part of a separate deal support the governor’s veto.

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