Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Monday, February 10, 2014

Sometimes, a Republican will come up with a good bill -- HB2554

To whom does the information and data compiled by Arizona government agencies belong?

Because technology had not caught up, here's what the statutes have required for decades (maybe even a century) about one particular type of data.
Within sixty days after the [Arizona Corporation Commission] commission approves the filing, a copy of the articles of amendment shall be published. An affidavit evidencing the publication may be filed with the commission. 
For various types of corporate notices, essentially the same language exists in several sections of Title 10 Corporations and Associations. How this has been playing out, for decades, is that those corporate notices have been published in newspapers. It has been a lucrative enterprise, even though VERY FEW people read those notices, especially in highly parochial publications like the Arizona Capitol Times.

So lucrative that some of those newspapers, struggling for revenue because they have been victims of disruptive technological innovation (the internet) and having not figured out how to adapt, have attacked lawmakers who dared to act like the data belongs to the people, instead of to the newspapers.

Last year, it was HB2533 regarding public notices by local governments, which passed the House and was ultimately held in the Senate and there died. In the House Technology and Infrastructure committee, on Valentine's Day 2013, Cap Times publisher Ginger Lamb testified about HB2533 thus:
Ms. Lamb reiterated the question about the accountability of government to monitor itself and in response to Mr. Stevens’ question about the yearly subscriptions total, she stated it is 5,500.
Besides a very likely overstatement of the Cap Times circulation, that she balked "about the accountability of government to monitor itself" is laughable. Conceptually, one would expect a Free Press to provide a check on government, ensuring accountability. However, Lamb's publication, besides not even being focused at all on local governments, is the LAST source anyone would look to for any kind of accountability journalism.

The legacy of the Arizona Capitol Times is to pander to lobbyists, so much so that it has refused to publish good journalistic stories for fear of jeopardizing its access to the state legislature, its bread and butter.

HB2533 had absolutely nothing to do with holding local governments accountable for anything. The bill would have allowed cities and towns to publish notices on websites instead of in newspapers. That's it. It would have saved significant amounts of taxpayer money. Money that Ginger Lamb and other publishers don't have to work very hard to rake in, at all.

But I digress. This session's HB2554 seeks to make the following change to several sections in Title 10 regarding corporate notices. What was the question again? Who does this data belong to?
Within sixty FIVE BUSINESS days after the commission approves the filing, a copy of the application for withdrawal shall be published.  An affidavit evidencing the publication may be filed with the commission.  THE COMMISSION SHALL INPUT THE INFORMATION REGARDING THE APPROVAL INTO THE DATABASE AS PRESCRIBED BY SECTION 10-130.
Instead of requiring corporate agents (or small business people filing on their own) to publish in a newspaper within 60 days after the Arizona Corporation Commission approves a filing and then filing an affidavit with the ACC that the publication has been completed, NOW within FIVE business days after the corporate filing takes place with the ACC, the ACC will be required to input the information into a database that the public can easily access and search. Nearly TWO months quicker than if we continue to provide corporate welfare to newspapers.

Because the cost to incorporate will be cut dramatically, this has the potential to promote innovation among people with ideas who may not have massive amounts of money up front.

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Don't get too excited about me supporting this bill. Its sole sponsor is our friend John Kavanagh. John is, to my knowledge, no less inclined to open his mouth and begin speaking before engaging his brain. BUT, this idea is NOT a partisan issue.

California's Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom last year published Citizenville: How to take the Town Square Digital and Reinvent Government. This is but one of many ideas available to make Arizona government more responsive and accountable to the people.

But also don't be surprised when Ginger Lamb starts squawking because her ox is being gored with this bill. By the way, last year, Jonathan (Payday) Paton also testified against the various technology bills that would have brough Arizona government into the 21st Century, technologically speaking.

2 comments:

  1. UPDATE:

    The cost of doing this is so low for the Arizona Corporation Commission that no fee need be assessed to the businesses. A committee amendment will be introduced to remove the cost to new businesses.

    State Rep. John Kavanagh

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  2. Here is the rationale for my bill, as transferred from a fact sheet I wrote:

    Arizona’s current legal requirements for posting printed notices in newspapers of new business startups creates needless work and publication expenses for new business startups, makes it outrageously time consuming and expensive for citizens to find the notices and makes it too easy for a business to inadvertently or purposely conceal its printed notice’s location.

    Finding printed public notices in Arizona newspapers is like playing “Where’s Waldo” on a statewide basis. The only ones who benefit are the newspapers that rake in advertising revenue.

    Under current law, new for-profit and non-profit businesses and organizations must publish their articles of incorporation to announce their formation in a newspaper of general circulation. The process is costly and time consuming at a time when time and money mean the most to new startups.

    The newspaper chosen does not have to be anywhere near the business’ location and can have a minuscule circulation. The newspaper only has to meet the law’s definition of a general circulation paper. For example, a business starting in Flagstaff can comply with current law by purchasing print ad space in The Weekly Bulletin of Santa Cruz, a weekly paper over 300 miles away with a anemic circulation of 530. Even worse, a new business in Yuma can legally post its ad in the Southern Utah News of Kanab, Utah!

    Newspaper print ads are also NOT timely. A business does not have to post its first ad for two months. In addition, in order to monitor all of the possible newspapers where a business posting could legally appear, a citizen would have to subscribe to 80 Arizona and Nevada newspapers at an expense of thousands of dollars per year.

    Unlike Arizona’s state government, these newspapers come and go and are under no obligation to safely archive their ads, especially after they go out of business. This is important because, nation-wide, newspapers are failing at an historically high rate because of the Internet and the public’s changing media viewing habits. Today’s newspaper archive may be tomorrow’s landfill compost.

    HB2554 addresses these problems. Under its provisions, the Arizona Corporation Commission, at NO COST to businesses, will post new business notices automatically on its website within 5 days of a business submitting its startup paperwork. The notices will stay posted permanently and will be digitally searchable by business name, location, the names of its principals and date of application.

    HB2554 does NOT change any of the print ad requirements for cities, towns, counties, districts, courts, state government or ANY government entities. It recognizes the needs of citizens without Internet service to view printed public notices concerning government meetings, budgets, etc. in their local newspapers.

    HB2554 simply replaces costly, time consuming and often impossible to locate newspaper print ads, which are of little interest to the average person, with FREE postings on a permanent, speedier, less time consuming, digitally searchable web-based system maintained by the Arizona Corporation Commission on their easily located website.

    ReplyDelete