Here we go again.

Every few years we end up with a bill before the Legislature aimed at getting rid of requirements for government to post notices in newspapers of record.

The latest comes from Sen. Catherine Breen, D-Cumberland. The bill is LD 876, "An Act to Promote Efficiency in County and Municipal Government," which would allow county and municipal governments and officials to meet the requirement to provide public notice in a newspaper by electronic posting on the county's or municipality's publicly accessible website.

So what’s wrong with that?

For one thing, the bill has no requirement of how prominently or clearly these public notices are going to be presented.

One is reminded of Arthur Dent in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” who has to go to the planning office basement to find the notice that his house is about to be torn down. The construction worker says of the basement: “That’s the display department.”

Dent complains he had to bring a flashlight to find the display.

“Ah, well, the lights had probably gone,” the demolition man responds.

“So had the stairs,” Dent says.

There is nothing to prevent government officials from burying important information in cryptically named places on their sites. Sometimes this could be intentional. In other cases it could be that the general public does not happen to think like a town manager or clerk or planner and the right place to look on the site is counterintuitive.

In all reality, governments should place them both online and in newspapers.

The other problem with this kind of law is that it asks government to be responsible for its own accountability. That’s like having your teenager check their own room for contraband. Notices keep government transparent and transparency helps both government and the people it serves.

People will argue that newspapers are just concerned about making money from the notices. The fact is newspapers need all the support they can get, and since they perform a vital function in our society, that support should be encouraged.

Already we have fewer reporters working nationwide, statewide, locally and globally than in the past. If journalists disappear, you may or may not notice the increase in taxes and corruption that will inevitably result. Government will get away with something akin to bloody murder and people will say, “Why didn’t someone tell us this was happening?”

Why? Because you counted on government to police itself.

The Maine Press Association, of which we are a part, strongly opposes this bill. You should too, and let your local lawmakers know that you do.