Local Governments Spend Hundreds of Thousands on Newspaper Ads

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Hundreds of thousands of your tax dollars have been spent on newspaper ads in the last few years in Leon County.

They're required by law.

If you look in the sports section of Tuesday's Tallahassee Democrat, you'll find more than three quarters of one page devoted to legal notices.

More than half the page is devoted to one foreclosure sale notice.

"I don't think state government and the public deserve to be left in the 19th century, it's time to move forward," said State Representative Dennis Baxley.

Last year, the Ocala Republican introduced a bill to move legal notices from newspapers to the less expensive internet.

But it died in committee.

"On line notification is very well broadcast and actually covers more people as paper subscriptions go down," said Baxley.

But according to records obtained exclusively by Eyewitness News, Tallahassee city and Leon County governments are spending hundreds of thousands of your tax dollars on legal notices.

Records show the city has spent nearly $240,000 on ads with the Democrat in the last three years.

Leon County spent more than $63,000 in 2010, $89,000 in 2011 and $184,000 last year.

Florida TaxWatch opposes shifting from newspaper to only internet notifications.

"Even though there are cost savings involved, the risk could be huge if we end up reducing community involvement," said Rob Weissert of TaxWatch.

Opponents of on line notifications claim they would disenfranchise the poor, minorities and elderly who either don't have access or use the internet.

But Baxley says everyone has free access to the internet at the library.

And he believes seniors are more tech savvy than people think.

"I find that seniors are very much adapting," said Baxley.

"To get rid of the traditional in favor of the new is a big leap that I think we need to take very, very carefully," said Weissert.

"The debate is not going away, this is dinosaurs trying to hold on," said Baxley.

Due to his new position as House Judicial Committee Chair, Baxley says he won't introduce a similar bill in the upcoming session.

However, he says it's likely some other lawmaker will.

And if there is a new bill, Baxley says it would likely be heard by his committee.

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