FL county wants to charge newspapers on government property

September 15, 2011

BUSHNELL, FL—One Florida county’s public administrator’s staff has a new idea on how to raise money in a troubled economy: make newspapers bid for the right to put news racks in county buildings.

Sumter County Administrator Bradley Arnold has asked for input from his staff and the county commission on how to make sure the county makes money from newspapers.  He said he is not proposing a ban on news racks on county right-of-way property “at this time,” but he suggested that publishers should “pay insurance and commissions to the county,” according to a report by the Sumter County Times.

The Times reported: “The first option presented by Arnold would allow distribution on county property through a licensing agreement with a portion of newspaper sales returned to the county. The second option would allow only one “selected” newspaper to sell newspapers based on placing the highest qualified bid. The final option commissioners considered was to ban all newspapers from placing sales boxes on county properties. Commissioners agreed to study the options and discuss the issue in a future workshop meeting yet to be scheduled.”

“The county can’t suppress speech and print distribution by imposing unreasonable profit-sharing or other paid-for license scheme dependent on the will of a state official. First Amendment cases flat out prohibit these types of broad attempts by government employees to limit information to the public,” said Sam Morley, general counsel of the Florida Press Association.

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