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Hands Off

By Staff | Feb 15, 2011

Let’s say you had a business. How would you feel if the State of Iowa told you how much you could charge certain customers for the products or services you provide? Is this fair? Does this seem un-American?

That’s exactly what’s being proposed in House Study Bill 72. This bill would change the rate that Iowa newspapers can charge for printing public notices-from schools, cities, and counties–to a flat rate of $25 per notice. This flat rate would eliminate the annual increase/decrease in publication rates as determined by the consumer price index and published by the Director of the Department of Administrative Services.

Public notices are the only truly objective and comprehensive account detailing the actions of elected officials. Notices are published in newspapers to assure distribution and readership. The fee that newspapers charge for public notices is often less than the price charged to other advertisers for identical space in the paper. Current rates for public notices are, on average, an 85-percent discount from the open rates charged by Iowa newspapers. House Study Bill 72 would make this already sizeable discount even greater.

Are newspapers not allowed to make a profit?

Did you know many newspapers are publishing public notices at a loss? Public notices serve as a type of low-cost accountability insurance. As long as schools, cities, and counties regularly publish accounts of their meetings and detail how they have spent taxpayers’ money, no citizen can accuse these entities of trying to operate in secret.

According to the Iowa Newspaper Association, some opponents argue that the government financially subsidizes newspapers for publishing public notices. Newspapers are no more subsidized by the government than the carpet cleaning business that is hired to freshen the floor coverings at the courthouse, or the bakery that provides bread and buns for the school lunch program.

This is the United States, and government has no place in determining what private businesses charge.

Hands off!