Friday, March 27, 2009

2009 legislature does ‘very little damage’ on news organizations' issues

The 2009 session of the Kentucky legislature did “very little damage” on issues of interest to the state’s newspapers and broadcast media, according to David Thompson, executive director of the Kentucky Press Association.

Thompson will report to KPA members that the General Assembly passed one bill that KPA lobbied against during the session that concludes March 27. That bill imposes a 6 percent sales tax on website subscriptions. However, that will affect only about 10 percent of KPA members, he said, because most newspaper websites are free. Gov. Steve Beshear has signed the legislation.

“You win some, lose some and some get shut out,” Thompson said in an interview with the Kentucky Open Government Blog.

He noted that several bills that both KPA and Kentucky Broadcasters Association were backing did not get passed this session, but most will be brought up again in 2010. That includes a bill to set access rules for journalists at polling sites on election day. Though journalists have a constitutional right to such access, Thompson said, under current vague privacy laws election officials sometimes block them from the voting room or prevent pictures from being taken. The bill failed not because of opposition, but because of time constraints, Thompson said.

One bill that the news media organizations opposed was successfully blocked – a proposal to forbid broadcast of 911 call recordings. “But it will be back again next year and every year,” Thompson said. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. John Schickel, has also said he will keep trying.

“They did very little damage,” Thompson summed up. “And that’s our approach – more defense than offense.”

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