Local Republicans buck party
By LINDELL JOHN KAY
Sunday, July 2, 2017
Local Republicans went against the grain last week to vote against a bill to strip legal notices out of North Carolina newspapers.
“I voted no every time it came up,” said N.C. Rep. Jeff Collins, R-Nash.
The bill would have allowed local governments across the state to publish legal and public notices on their websites instead of paying newspapers to print the information.
Collins said the bill wasn't given enough study.
“It came up too fast,” Collins said. “I'm not sure how changes would affect newspapers. I'm worried about the small weekly papers. They have good business models because they've been around a long time. I want to know what will happen to those newspapers.”
When Republicans were unable to win N.C. House approval for statewide changes, a comprise bill focusing on Guilford County was approved. That bill passed the Senate 32-14 and the House by 60-53. Collins and N.C. Sen. Rick Horner, R-Wilson, were among a handful of Republicans to vote against the bill.
Horner said he is worried about people going through foreclosure and what newspaper notices can mean to them.
“It's not about newspaper revenue or the county saving a dollar, it's about the poor guy losing his home at the courthouse steps,” Horner said. “It's about Spaulding Building in Spring Hope. As many people as possible should know about public auctions. More people means more money for the taxpayer. Anything else is just political cover.”
Horner took a strong stand against the bill when it was on the Senate floor.
“Some Republicans were surprised when I stood up against it,” Horner said. “They were surprised to see a freshman stand up like that. But I do what I think it right for the people. We're here to speak for those with no voice — and that's the guy losing his home.”
Collins said a lot of fellow Republicans tried to get him to vote in favor of the bill, but there was little push back when he didn't.
“There was no grief about it,” Collins said. “I vote for what I think is the right thing. I’ve been here long enough that everyone knows that.”
The bill has been sent to the desk of Gov. Roy Cooper. If the bill is made law a test run will be made in Guilford County to allow local governments within the county to run notices on their websites instead of paying newspapers.
The N.C. Press Association said it will continue to fight to ensure access to public notices for everyone, not just those with an internet connection.