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story.lead_photo.caption Sen. Scott Flippo, R-Bull Shoals, is shown in this file photo. - Photo by Jeff Mitchell

A bill that would threaten a longtime source of advertising revenue for newspapers was pulled by its sponsor from consideration by a legislative committee Thursday.

Senate Bill 409 by Sen. Scott Flippo, R-Bull Shoals, would give government entities -- including the state, cities, counties and school districts -- the option to publish required legal notices for contracts and purchases on a website instead of in a newspaper. The bill also would allow the entities to accept bids electronically.

Lynn Hamilton, president of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, along with Ashley Wimberley, the executive director of the Arkansas Press Association, expressed their opposition to the bill to members of the Senate Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs.

Current law requires public entities to publish legal notices in a newspaper and accept only sealed, hard-copy bids.

SB409 is "just not fair. It's not fair to newspapers. It's not fair to the Democrat-Gazette. It's not fair to the people of Arkansas," Hamilton said, adding that he, Wimberley and members of the state's newspaper industry had tried several times to meet with Flippo about the bill, but "he was unavailable to us."

[RELATED: Complete Democrat-Gazette coverage of the Arkansas Legislature]

"Slow this down just a little bit. This is a huge change for the state of Arkansas. Obviously it's a huge change for newspapers. But don't vote today," Hamilton said. "Give us a chance to learn what you're doing, to understand the [bill], to read the [bill] and then vote."

Wimberley told the committee that the Arkansas Press Association began about two years ago asking all of its member newspapers to upload legal notices to a website hosted by the association.

"The Press Association has already done this free for the state, so it's added value to running in newspapers," Wimberley said. "It's searchable. The public notices are uploaded daily by our newspapers."

In the end, Flippo told the committee that he would hold the bill until he could visit with the press.

"I'm happy to pull this down," Flippo said. "I don't know that it's going to change anything, but that's reasonable. My integrity is important to me."

A Section on 03/15/2019

Print Headline: Sponsor of legal-notices bill to meet press groups

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