League of Women Voters of Colorado testifies in favor of Colorado local news bill
The League of Women Voters of Colorado was among publishers, broadcasters, civic organizations and national press advocates who supported HB 22-1121 during the bill’s hearing before the Colorado House Business Affairs and Labor Committee on March 10.
The bill would create a tax credits for local businesses that offsets the cost of advertising in local news outlets. Kathleen Wilson, a member of the League of Women Voters of Colorado Legislative Action Committee, testified that “A long-standing principle of the League of Women Voters is that democratic government depends upon informed and active participation in government and requires governmental bodies to protect the citizen’s right to know.”
The League not only encouraged lawmakers to pass the bill, but strengthen its language against 501(c)6 organization to ensure that only credible sources of information are able to benefit from the policy.
The bill passed the Business Affairs Committee 8-2 with three members excused. It is slated for a hearing before the House Finance Committee on March 21.
March 10, 2022
Statement of Kathleen Wilson, League of Women Voters of Colorado Legislative Action Committee Member
Mr. Chair and Members of the Committee. Thank you for the opportunity to offer testimony this afternoon.
My name is Kathleen Wilson, and I am representing the League of Women Voters of Colorado. LWVCO is a nonpartisan organization with a membership spanning the state of Colorado with 19 local leagues operating in several regions of the state. I am here today to offer testimony on HB22-1121 and the proposed Amendments, based on its important premise that the citizens of Colorado need access to reliable information and news sources regarding the workings of their local governments, boards, and agencies whose decisions impact their daily lives.
A long-standing principle of the League of Women Voters is that democratic government depends upon informed and active participation in government and requires governmental bodies to protect the citizen’s right to know. As a vital component of the Civic Ecosystem, local news outlets support a citizen’s right to know through local reporting. When a local news media outlet closes, thereby creating a news desert, access to this information will be limited to in-person meeting attendance by the public, watching live stream online meeting broadcasts or recordings if available, word-of-mouth sharing, or social media – some of which can be less reliable sources.
We laud the improvements regarding the definitions of eligible and ineligible news outlets delineated in Representative Cutter’s amendment, including compliance with Internal Revenue Code sections 501(c)(4) and 527, the declarations of outlet ownership, the requirement of a full-time employee covering local news, and the requirement of having media liability insurance. These stipulations work to block organizations whose intent is to advance partisan political messaging for qualifying as eligible news outlets.
The League of Women Voters of Colorado asks that you vote in favor of the Amendments so more work can be done on the bill. We suggest you consider adding the stipulation that groups defined as 501(c)(6) organizations also be disqualified news outlets for advertisers to receive an income tax credit. We do not believe that boards of trade, chambers of commerce, business leagues, or real estate boards are providers of local or regional news in Colorado. This additional stipulation would make it more difficult for an organization with the intent of circumventing the 501(c)(4) designation to avoid being disqualified.
On behalf of the members of the League of Women Voters, I thank you. I am happy to answer questions you may have for me.