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Lawmakers Seek To Limit Access

As they have since 2019, a few lawmakers in Charleston want to make sure you have reduced access to what government at all levels is doing. It has become an annual tradition for a clutch of them to support changes in the way required legal advertisements are made available to you, the state’s taxpayers.

This year, Delegate Brandon Steele, R-Raleigh, is pushing for House Bill 4260, which would establish a centralized website clearinghouse for county and municipal legal advertisements, requiring the State Auditor’s Office to build and maintain the site. It would also reduce time limits for certain kinds of legal ads to remain published in newspapers.

Oddly, Steele’s mission to reduce your access to public information hinges largely on the idea that said information will be available on a website. This during the same legislative session in which we have repeatedly been told internet access in West Virginia is woefully inadequate — 300,000 of the approximately 700,000 addresses in the Mountain State do not have adequate broadband service, according to West Virginia Department of Economic Development Secretary Mitch Carmichael.

Lawmakers have also repeatedly lamented that our state has among the oldest populations in the country. More than one-fifth of the population is over 65 — a population that still gets much of its daily flow of news and information from the state’s daily and weekly newspapers.

Steele is fully aware of these numbers. One almost gets the feeling he is hoping to take advantage of them. Increasing the opacity of government, but particularly for those one could argue have the most interest in knowing what their governments are doing, serves only government and King Bureaucracy, and Steele knows it.

Taxpayers should have as many ways as possible to see what governments are doing. After all, they are paying for it. Limiting one of those options, and making the other option a fox-guarding-the-henhouse centralized website to whom not everyone has access, is intentionally poor stewardship of our money. Surely lawmakers who understand that will toss this bill into the trash, where it belongs.

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