The News & Record has a long history of personal attacks on state Sen. Trudy Wade. Now the News & Observer in Raleigh has joined the party.
The N&O apparently believes in the old lawyers adage: “When the law is against you, argue the facts. When the facts are against you, argue the law. When both are against you, call the other lawyer names.”
Wade (R-Guilford) has two bills making their way through the General Assembly to level the playing field. Both have passed the Senate and await their fate in the House.
Both make a lot of sense, so the News & Observer, instead of writing an editorial about what is wrong with the laws, wrote one attacking Wade.
Newspapers – years ago when the state government was completely controlled by their friends in the Democratic Party – had a law passed that exempted newspaper delivery drivers from being considered employees. One of Wade’s laws takes away this exemption and makes newspaper delivery drivers fall under the same laws that apply to other employers in the state. If the drivers meet the criteria to be considered employees, and not independent contractors, then they will be employees. Under the current law a delivery driver can meet all the criteria for employees and still be an independent contractor because newspapers have a special exemption.
Back when the special exemption was passed, and newspapers were delivered to homes largely by boys on foot or on bicycles, the exemption made sense. But when was the last time you saw a young man riding his bike packed with newspapers down the street, throwing one onto nearly every driveway? The world has changed but the law has not.
The N&O evidently couldn’t think of a good reason that newspapers should be exempt from the employment laws of the state and instead attacked Wade.
The other bill concerning newspapers that has passed the Senate would replace a law originally passed in the early part of the last century requiring public and legal notices to be placed in a newspaper with paid circulation. The law effectively gives paid circulation newspapers a monopoly on this type advertising, which is required by state law. Advertising via radio, billboard, television, direct mail, free publications (like this one) – no matter how many people are reached – does not qualify for public or legal notices. In today’s world the law is archaic.
Much of the legal and public advertising in Guilford County is done in the Jamestown News, which has paid circulation mainly in Jamestown, one of the smaller municipalities in Guilford County, but meets the requirements, whereas advertising in free publications or anywhere that is not in a paid circulation newspaper does not.
Under the current law, a city could send a notice by direct mail to every residence in the city and it wouldn’t meet the requirements for public notice.
The bill sponsored by Wade would allow counties and municipalities to place public notices on their own websites to meet the requirements of the law; it also would allow counties to accept paid public and legal notices to be placed on their websites. And there is another twist. Of the revenue collected by the county for these public and legal notices, 80 percent would go to the schools to fund teacher salaries.
The bill does not prohibit advertising in paid circulation newspapers. They would still meet the legal requirements for public and legal notices, but the bill does provide competition for those newspapers. It’s much like the employee law in that the bill levels the playing field.
It’s no wonder the N&O didn’t attack this second bill, because, despite the fact it is taking revenue away from privately owned newspapers, it is awarding the lion’s share to the schools.
The idea that more people in Guilford County have access to the information published in the Jamestown News than on the Guilford County website is absurd.
In addition, paid circulation newspapers over the years have grossly overcharged for these legal and public notices because they had a state-mandated monopoly. If this bill becomes law, paid circulation newspapers will still be able to run these notices, but they will have competition.
So what the bill actually does is introduce some free market principles to public and legal notice advertising. It means that to continue to publish these legally required ads, paid circulation newspapers will likely have to lower their rates to compete with county websites.
Even the N&O couldn’t find much wrong witt the bill, which is why instead of writing about the problems with it, the N&O chose to attack Wade.
Newspapers have a powerful lobby in Raleigh that is working hard to keep the laws favoring newspapers the way they are, but Wade has been able to get bipartisan support for the bills in the state Senate. Now it is up to the state House as to whether it wants to continue to grant special privileges to newspapers or not.