Cuomo idea would bury the news

BY MICHELLE K. REA  |   We are strongly opposed to the governor’s proposal to eliminate newspaper public notice of proposed constitutional amendments.

Instead of publishing public notices, the board of elections would post an abstract and brief description of the proposed amendment somewhere on its website for three days in the week prior to the election. The secretary of state would also post a notice somewhere on its website once per month for three months.

At a time when there is general agreement that there is a need to increase transparency and accountability in state government, it is astounding that this provision is included in a budget bill. Among the many reasons this is a very bad idea are:

*This proposal disenfranchises voters who cannot afford a home computer with broadband access.

*It assumes that New York voters sift through state agency websites when looking for news that affects them. They do not. They turn to a local newspaper.

*This proposal will not save money. Time after time, when advocating for legislation that would require government agencies to post information on their websites, we have been told it is too difficult or expensive.

*Newspaper publication provides a historic record. Government websites may not be maintained long term. Newspapers are preserved in libraries and newspaper archives for posterity.

*The governor has called for a constitutional amendment to strip public pensions from legislators convicted of crimes, and yet this bill supports making the proposed language available only on obscure websites few voters will ever see.

The proposed legislation says it will save $342,000. There are more than 10 million registered voters in New York State, so the proposal saves about three pennies per voter.

Michelle K. Rea is executive director of the New York Press Association and New York Press Service.

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