June 25, 2007
Sun Journal Editorial Page Editor Anthony Ronzio weighed in on lawmakers' water extraction bill, www.sunjournal.com/story/218253-3/OurView/A_refreshing_compromise/.
His opinion comes from a readership area that includes Poland Springs, arguably Maine's - and the nation's - best-known bottled water company.A Refreshing Compromise
Nestl` Waters North America, the parent company of Poland Spring, made a sage decision to negotiate with its critics, who were gearing up for a second citizen campaign for a tax on commercial water extraction.
Although the first campaign for the first-in-the-nation tax fell short of the ballot qualification, its success persuaded proponents that a second iteration had a strong chance of succeeding. Nestl` apparently agreed, and elected to be involved, rather than wait out the process.
The result was a strengthening of government oversight of water extraction, a complicated issue, as regions (such as Rangeley and Kingfield) targeted by bottlers for extraction need the economic boost it provides.
At the same time, all residents of Maine need to have their water supplies protected. This bill applies to both by stiffening the environmental and statutory protections on aquifers, while avoiding economic roadblocks - like the proposed extraction tax - that could have put jobs in jeopardy.
Rep. Ted Koffman, D-Bar Harbor, called the bill a "pleasant surprise."
We have another word: refreshing.
Like a long drink of icy spring water.
Ronzio also opined on a bill contested by the Maine Press Association, among others, that would require the state to publish all public notices online - only online.
While we all recognize the ease of online publishing, we in the world of publishing know the pitfalls of an electronic medium as well as we know as the peaks.
Ronzio wrote the following for the Sun Journal on June 25, 2007:,There's wisdom in delaying LD 1878A bill to remove public notices from newspapers in favor of a new, online system has been wisely slowed in the Legislature. LD 1878, sponsored by Rep. Terry Hayes, D-Buckfield, was estimated to save $1.5 million annually by scrapping traditional methods of publishing upcoming government actions.
(Note: Yes, newspapers receive revenue for publishing notices. Ceasing them would affect that revenue stream.)
The bill would have failed in the House, proponents said, despite commonplace sentiment that public notices is an area ripe for cost savings. In essence, they are right: notice publishing costs have increased about $30,000 annually for the past few years (except for 2001-02, when it declined by $17,700).
In 2006, the Secretary of State's Office spent $451,256.15 on notices, an increase of $37,820 from 2005, according to spokesman Don Cookson, while the number of actual rule-making notices published by the agency has remained steady for a decade, between 744 and 947 annually.
Cookson noted two reasons: rising publication rates, and heightened sensitivity on the part of notifying agencies to be as "explicit as possible" with information, which increased the size of notices, and raised costs because the state was simply purchasing more newspaper acreage than before.
These are important points, as it was publication costs that inspired LD 1878. The reasons for the increase within the existing notices system weren't fully explored, or debated, while lawmakers hurtled ahead on ambitious predictions of cost savings by switching to a high-tech, yet unproven, system.
Sending LD 1878 back to committee means the homework on the bill can now occur. After all, an effective, efficient online system of circulating public notices is a marvelous concept.
But not as the lone method of delivering critical government information to the public it serves.www.sunjournal.com/EditorialPage/index.html