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Are Government Legal Notices A Waste Of Tax Dollars?
By John Pless
Many people believe if you dig deep enough you can find where government wastes your tax dollars. So we're beginning a new, on-going series of reports called Waste Watch where we are going to find those wasted dollars.
We begin with a closer look into governments spending money to buy ads in newspapers that few people read.
Times are changing as fewer people subscribe to and read printed papers in favor of getting information on-line. So should the Tennessee law be changed so that governments no longer have to spend your money on something seldom used?
According to the Tennessee Press Association 70% of Americans read newspapers either in print or on-line. But what about all those legal notices that city and county governments are required by law to publish?
We posed that question to a number people who said they never read the legal notices. We did find a few people who said they do read some legal notices like announcements of marriages, divorce and foreclosures.
The City of Chattanooga spends about $75,000 a year to buy space in newspapers to let the public know about meetings, bids and purchases according to city media relations director Richard Beeland.
"Well we've always been concerned about the amount of money we're spending on legal notices," Beeland said.
Last year City Hall asked State Senator Bo Watson, R-Hamilton County, to introduce a bill that would change the requirement for governments so they could publish legal notices on-line without having to pay for printed notices in newspapers.
"What I wanted to do with this bill was begin the dialogue of how do we transition from a print media system to a system that's electronic and still meets those four tenants of being independent, verifiable, achievable and accessible," Senator Watson said.
The measure failed. The Tennessee Press Association lobbied against the change which would have resulted in lost income for newspapers. TPA said the change would water down the press's role of keeping people informed.
Frank Gibson, policy director for the Tennessee Press Association, said "of course that removes an important ingredient and purpose of public notice and that is that the notice be independent of government and verifiable."
TPA cites several studies showing why going exclusively on-line would keep a substantial number of people in the dark. At least 36% of Tennesseans don't have broadband access. 25% of Tennesseans don't have computers -- of those who do have computers only one-in-four visit government web sites.
Vickie Jefferson, a reader of those printed legal notices, said "I think they should keep doing it solely because everybody doesn't use on-line."
The city's spokesman agrees, going on-line would limit access for some but these days it's more about the cost considering how few people even read the printed notices.
"We're just trying to save taxpayer dollars by eliminating the requirement that we put it in print," Beeland said.
We are looking into other government projects and programs where there may be wasteful spending of tax dollars. If you know about a government program that needs attention we have set up a special e-mail address where you can share the information: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Last Update on July 23, 2014 17:22 GMT
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The International Monetary Fund has shaved its forecast for U.S. economic growth this year, mostly because of a sharp contraction in the first quarter.
But the global lending organization still expects that growth accelerated in the April-June quarter and will remain healthy for the rest of this year and next.
The IMF projects growth will be just 1.7 percent this year, down from a 2 percent estimate in June. That would make 2014 the weakest year since the recession ended in June 2009.
The IMF's outlook is more pessimistic than the Federal Reserve, which expects growth of at least 2.1 percent. But it matches most other economists.
The Fund also urged the U.S. government to take steps to boost growth, including encouraging more Americans to find jobs and lifting productivity.
RETAIL SALES-ANNUAL FORECAST
NEW YORK (AP) -- The nation's largest retail trade group is paring its annual sales forecast because of slower-than-expected growth during the first half of the year tied to winter storms and lingering economic woes.
The Washington-based National Retail Federation says Wednesday that it now expects retail sales will rise 3.6 percent this year to $3.2 trillion, instead of its original prediction of 4.1 percent released in early February.
The figures include sales in stores and online but exclude automotive sales and sales at gas stations and restaurants.
Retailers now are heading into the back-to-school shopping season, the second-largest shopping period behind the winter holidays.
SEC-MONEY MARKET FUNDS
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Regulators have voted narrowly to end a longtime staple of the investment industry -- the fixed $1 share price for money-market mutual funds -- at least for some money funds used by big investors.
The idea is to minimize the risk of a mass withdrawal from the funds during a financial panic.
The Securities and Exchange Commission also is letting money funds block withdrawals when their assets fall below certain levels or impose fees for withdrawals.
The new rules were adopted Wednesday on a 3-2 vote. They were opposed by one Democratic and one Republican commissioner.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Senate has advanced an election-year bill limiting tax breaks for U.S. companies that move operations overseas. But big hurdles remain.
The Senate voted 93-7 Wednesday to begin debating the bill, which would prevent companies from deducting expenses related to moving operations to a foreign country. The bill would offer tax credits to companies that move operations to the U.S. from overseas.
Senate Democratic leaders say the bill would end senseless tax breaks for companies that ship jobs abroad. Republicans say the bill is an election-year ploy that has no chance of becoming law. They note that a similar bill failed two years ago.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Federal Aviation Administration says it will continue its ban on U.S. airline flights to Tel Aviv while assessing the danger of rocket attacks.
The agency said Wednesday it is working closely with the Israeli government to review new information they have provided and to determine whether safety concerns have been resolved.
FAA instituted the flight prohibition on Tuesday in response to a rocket strike that landed about a mile from the airport.
The directive applies only to U.S. operators, and has no authority over foreign airlines operating to or from the airport.
But European airlines are also avoiding Tel Aviv, after the European Aviation Safety Agency on Tuesday recommended doing so.
On Wednesday, Germany's two largest airlines, Lufthansa and Air Berlin, extended their cancellations through Thursday. Air France said it was suspending its flights "until further notice."
BRUSSELS (AP) -- The European Union's executive is proposing legislation to curb the energy use of households and firms by almost one third by 2030 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lower its dependence on gas imports, particularly those from Russia.
The Commission proposed Wednesday to increase energy efficiency by 30 percent, an upward revision of its earlier target of 20 percent by 2020.
Energy savings can be achieved by improving building insulation, upgrading heating systems or lowering the electricity need of new appliances like fridges.
The Commission says that for one additional percent in energy savings, EU gas imports are expected to fall 2.6 percent.
It estimates reaching the target will require investments of 89 billion euros ($132 billion) annually across the 28-nation bloc.
The proposal still requires approval from EU governments.
BRUSSELS (AP) -- The European Union is giving Lithuania the green light to adopt the euro currency starting next year.
Ministers from the 28-nation bloc on Wednesday cleared the final legal hurdle for Lithuania to become the 19th member of the currency zone encompassing some 330 million people. The country had been given preliminary approval in June.
Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius said adopting the euro will strengthen the Baltic nation's economy.
Alluding to the tensions with Russia over Ukraine, he added deeper integration with western Europe "means greater security as well."
Lithuania's Baltic neighbors, Estonia and Latvia, are already members of the euro. All three countries achieved independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
The euro is just emerging from years of financial stress following debt problems in a number of countries.
LONDON (AP) -- Drug maker GlaxoSmithKline has cut its full-year earnings expectations as it says its second-quarter profits were hit by currency moves and a fall in sales of its respiratory drugs.
The company said Wednesday it expects 2014 earnings per share to be broadly similar to last year. It had previously forecast growth of between 4 and 8 percent.
GSK said second-quarter revenue fell 16 percent to 5.6 billion pounds ($9.5 billion) from 6.6 billion pounds in the same quarter in the previous year. Profit attributable to shareholders dropped from 1.05 billion pounds a year earlier to 654 million pounds.
The firm, which remains troubled by a high-profile bribery investigation in China, said sales there were down 20 percent.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee has endorsed former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald to be the new secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The panel unanimously backed McDonald on Wednesday, one day after a nomination hearing in which he faced no opposition.
Senators said they are eager for McDonald to begin work at the beleaguered agency, which has been plagued by treatment delays and falsified records at VA hospitals and clinics nationwide.
McDonald has pledged to "transform" the VA and address a series of "systematic failures," including patient access to health care, transparency, accountability and integrity.
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