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Bill picks taxpayers' pockets
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Beware. The Georgia General Assembly is in session again. If you want to protect your home’s value and your quality of life, it’s time  — again — to pay attention. In recent years a few secrecy-in-government legislators would have made it possible to spoil your neighborhood with unwanted development and you could not know until it was too late to stop it. Some wanted to allow government to take your property through eminent domain and turn it over to developers. Public outcry sent them backing away from such harmful legislation like roaches scrambling from the light.

This year, unfortunately, it’s Sen. Cecil Staton (R-Macon) pushing Senate Bill 391. Staton mistakenly believes he is enhancing public notice when, perhaps unwittingly, he is taking the first fatal step toward making it even harder for residents to follow what local governments are doing. Sen. Staton wants cities, counties and school boards to pay a private company based in Beverly Hills, Calif., to carry public notices on the company’s for-profit Web site. Each time a town council changes meeting times, or a school board holds a called session, this Beverly Hills company would have to be paid.

As the law now stands, officials merely post a notice in a conspicuous place and notify their legal organ newspaper in advance. The Georgia Municipal Association says Staton’s bill will only cost  taxpayers more money. It will accomplish nothing in improving public notice. How, for example, will residents know where to find these  notices of important issues in the vastness of cyberspace?

Sen. Staton ignores the fact many public notices are already available to you on the Internet — for free. (Go to Never mind that many public notices are already posted — for free — in courthouses and city halls. Never mind that many are published in this newspaper.

Staton, inexplicably, believes  this company should be paid to, essentially, duplicate what newspapers and local officials are already doing in hundreds of Georgia towns and cities.

Why does Staton think a California company deserves taxpayer dollars to duplicate service already available?

We wish we could tell you, but Sen. Staton either ignores, or takes umbrage at, those who dare question his intent.

Disappointing behavior from someone who asked to represent us. But then, most of us didn’t give Sen. Staton $1,000 donations in the last few weeks.

The Beverly Hills executives hoping to get this guaranteed windfall did.

Coincidence? Perhaps.

Truth is, this isn’t about public notice. It’s about getting into the taxpayers’ pockets. This Beverly Hills crowd has pushed similar legislation in several other states already — with no success. Their plan is to move public notices from courthouses, city halls and your local newspaper to their Web site as a state-mandated monopoly. No one, it appears, has fallen for their scheme like Sen. Staton.

You can put a stop to this.

Your home’s value depends on knowing when critical zoning changes may occur. Your quality of life can be ruined forever by undesirable development. That’s part of why following local government action is important. Sen. Staton is, apparently, listening only to private interests from Beverly Hills who don’t have protection of your Georgia home or community as a priority.

Call or email your state senator today. Tell him to help stop S.B. 391. The value of your home or the quality of your neighborhood could depend on it.

Robert Williams, an Effingham County native, publishes weekly newspapers in several Georgia communities. He can be reached at