A bill that would do away with the current requirement that newspapers have a publications class postal permit before they can compete for public notice advertising is being blocked from even having a public hearing by House Rep. David Sessions of Grand Bay.

Sessions, who represents House District 105 and is currently chairman of the Mobile County delegation, says he will not allow House Bill 561 to be brought before the delegation for consideration in this current legislative session. The bill is supported by the city of Mobile, members of the Mobile County Commission and the Mobile County Bar Association. The City Council passed a unanimous resolution supporting the removal of this requirement, as did the Bar Association’s executive committee.

Local governments, as well as attorneys, are bound by law to purchase advertising in newspapers within their county. This accounts for hundreds of thousands in taxpayer money spent each year in Mobile County alone, and far more for attorneys doing probate work.

Lagniappe has sought to have this law changed after being approached by officials from the city and county, as well as local law firms, expressing that they would like to have more competition in this area and more options from which to choose when they purchase advertising. As a free publication, Lagniappe is unable to obtain the postal permit, which deals with bulk mailing, not legal advertising, but has been used for decades to keep more established newspapers from facing competition for this lucrative advertising.

Lagniappe has faced opposition in changing this law from the Press-Register, Citronelle Call News and the Mobile Beacon, all of which currently are allowed by law to run public-notice advertising. The Alabama Press Association has also strongly fought against a change.

HB 561 would only change the law in Mobile and would only be considered by members of the Mobile County legislative delegation, but Sessions has said he doesn’t want to have a public hearing and vote on the bill, which would require members of the delegation to declare their support or opposition. Some members of the Legislature have stated that Sessions’ block of even a hearing on the issue is outside the normal way legislation is handled.

Lagniappe intends to continue fighting what we believe is an illegal law that blocks free trade and competition, and insures a situation in which the taxpayers are overcharged for required advertising.

Lagniappe lands two finalists in national contest
Two Lagniappe writers are among the finalists announced last week in the Association of Alternative Newsmedia’s 2015 AAN Awards competition.

Co-publisher Ashley Trice and former reporter Alyson Stokes are among the finalists in this contest. The competition featured 920 entries submitted by 71 publications from across the United States and Canada.

Stokes, who recently took a job in the music industry in California, is a finalist in the Beat Reporting category. Her police beat coverage of the Hiawayi Robinson murder was selected to compete against three other entries from weeklies with under 45,000 circulation.

Stokes’ reporting was clear and concise, but also detailed and gave readers important information in the tragic case. She submitted four stories. They will compete against Immigration Beat reporting from Boulder Weekly, Outdoor Sports reporting also from Boulder Weekly and Criminal Justice reporting from Indy Week.

The winner will be announced at the AAN convention in Salt Lake City July 18.

Lagniappe’s other finalist is Co-publisher Ashley Trice, who was selected in the Best Column category. She submitted three humorous and poignant columns, one dealing with Parties for Children on Pinterest, another on her mother and a third on getting a mammogram.

Trice will compete with columns by Terry Gibson from the Colorado Springs Independent and columns by Kevin Allman and Clancy Dubos of Gambit in New Orleans.

The AAN awards recognize the best in alternative journalism and provide an opportunity for AAN member papers to compete with their colleagues from across the country. Judging for this year’s competition was conducted by the Georgetown University Master’s in Professional Studies Program in Journalism.

Andrews heads to USA
Casandra Andrews, former Press-Register reporter and current public information officer for the Mobile County Health Department, has announced she has taken a new position with the University of South Alabama Public Relations Department.

Specifically, Andrews will be working with the university’s two hospitals.

Prior to working with the Health Department, Andrews was a reporter with the Press-Register for several years. She has also written for Lagniappe.

She said her Health Department position would be filled through the Mobile County Personnel Board. Her last day will be May 29.