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Guest Commentary: Preserve Public Notice; Bill shifts costs to business

By Brewster Bevis - | Mar 24, 2021

Brewster Bevis

House Bill 35, which is slated to be heard by the Florida House of Representative this week, shifts cost to private business, makes government bigger, and, in some cases, converts private sector jobs into public sector jobs. It’s wrong for business and it’s wrong for Florida.

What legislation is this? It’s a bill that the Florida Legislature is confronted with year after year. It proposes to move public notices to either governmental websites or “publicly accessible” websites.

The crux of the problem is that this legislation will make it infinitely harder for businesses in Florida to find critical information they need. The information that businesses are impacted by which is often found in public notices could include, rezoning and land use ordinances, forfeiture and seizure of property or disclosure of property tax impact, to name a few.

Today, the public notice laws are clear. Public notices that communicate critical information must be published in a local community newspaper, posted on that newspaper’s website and listed on the aggregated site, FloridaPublicNotices.com — there is no ambiguity as to where to find this information.

Yet, conceivably under HB 35, the same business that goes to FloridaPublicNotices.com today would now have to search any one of thousands of websites to find the information critical to them.

As an example, a business which operates throughout the state can currently monitor government projects out for bid by going to the single, aggregated site — FloridaPublicNotices.com — daily and in one search find all government projects out for bid.

Under this legislation, that same business would now have to search the depths of the Internet, instead of going to a single, free site — FloridaPublicNotices.com.

This creates barriers to doing business in the state and increases cost significantly, because, in order to find the information a business is looking for, they would have to hire a full-time team to search for important information impactful to them.

Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) has been a staunch supporter of keeping public notices in newspapers and online to ensure the numerous Florida businesses — many of which are small businesses — that AIF represents can easily locate and access critical information.

It is paramount public notice remains protected, and individuals and businesses’ right to this critical information is protected. We ask the Florida Legislature to continue to do what they have historically done — protect and even bolster public notice by ensuring its broadest possible dissemination in print and online.

AIF respectfully asks Florida lawmakers to vote “no” on HB 35.

— Brewster Bevis is the senior vice president of State and Federal Affairs at Associated Industries of Florida.