CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It was city senator versus country senator Thursday in a debate over a bill to eliminate current law requiring county school boards to publish annual financial reports in their local newspapers.
Sen. Erik Wells, D-Kanawha, said the law (SB508) is antiquated, and amounts to a subsidy for newspapers.
"This was put into effect years ago when the main source of information was the newspaper, and that's not the case today," said Wells, a former television news anchor/reporter.
Wells said county school boards could save thousands of dollars annually by posting the spending reports on their websites, instead of publishing them in newspapers as legal ads.
That drew the ire of Sen. Clark Barnes, R-Randolph, who told Wells, "Sir, I understand, you're a big-city guy."
Barnes said that many West Virginians, particularly those in rural areas and small counties, still rely on newspapers for their information, citing counties including Pocahontas, Pendleton, and Randolph.
"Guess what -- we don't have broadband [Internet], and a big portion of our population wouldn't turn on broadband if they had it," said Barnes.
Don Smith, executive director of the West Virginia Press Association, agreed with Barnes.
"We're talking about West Virginia residents and taxpayers now, and a lot of them do not use the Internet," Smith said. "All this bill would do is take information the public needs access to ... and take it out of the public realm."