By Sabrina Bates
The vice chair of the Tennessee Senate’s State and Local Government Committee said he plans to vote against a measure that shifts foreclosure notices from newspapers to the Secretary of State’s website. District 26 Sen. Page Walley, a Republican minister from Savannah, plans to cast a “no” vote. Walley represents Chester, Fayette, Hardeman, Hardin, Haywood, Lawrence, McNairy and Wayne Counties and is vice chair of the Senate State and Local Government Committee.
Senate Bill 1324 amends a current law that requires foreclosing parties to publish a notice of foreclosure at least three times in a newspaper in a county where a trustee sale is set to be made. Instead of posting the notice in a newspaper, the amendment would allow foreclosing parties to publish the notice on the Secretary of State’s website for at least 20 continuous days before a foreclosure sale at $200 per posting.
SB 1324 was introduced by Sen. Paul Bailey, a Republican farmer from Sparta who represents six counties in East Tennessee. The House version, HB 1355, is sponsored by Sevierville attorney Rep. Andrew Farmer.
On Tuesday morning, the bill was headed to the Senate’s State and Local Government Committee and on Wednesday, Feb. 22, to the House Civil Justice Committee of the 113th Tennessee General Assembly for consideration. The Senate committee deferred action on the proposed legislation until March 7
Sen. Walley cited protection for local newspapers and smaller communities as reasons for a “no” vote.
Sen. Ed Jackson, who represents Crockett and other counties in Tennessee’s 25th senatorial district, reiterated the need to protect small businesses.
“This is a bill the bankers got together and pushed for because papers across the state charge anywhere from $500 to $1,500, but a lot of us in the Senate felt this was needlessly hurting small businesses. I know there are a lot of smaller papers in my district that this would hurt,” Jackson explained.
“We talked with Sen. Bailey, who’s sponsoring the bill, and he rolled it for two weeks to give the bankers and the print media people a chance to get together and figure this out before it comes before the Senate for us to vote on,” the senator added.
A press release posted by the Tennessee Bankers Association on Feb. 2 cited newspapers as being an outdated source of distributing information to the public.
“Foreclosures can be a stressful and confusing time for homeowners. Public notices of foreclosures play a critical role in the process. For many years, these notices have been published in newspapers, which has become an increasingly outdated and ineffective method of distributing information to the public. The cost of posting foreclosure notices in print newspapers can be substantial, with homeowners paying upwards of $2,000 just for the notice publication.
In today’s digital age, it’s time to re-evaluate the practice and embrace more modern methods of communicating foreclosure information to the public,” the release noted.
Daniel Richardson, CEO and president of Magic Valley Publishing Co., which operates 15 local newspapers across West Tennessee, including this publication, said proposed legislation that targets publication of notices this year could ultimately turn them into online scavenger hunts.
“The bill the Banker’s Association has proposed and lobbied for to remove foreclosure notices from newspapers, if passed, would drastically reduce the awareness of the foreclosures and therefore the participation of the sale. The bill would not save taxpayers any money because their tax bill is not going down. Any money saved by not informing the public of these events would be spent somewhere else.
“Where else, you ask? If East Tennessee and metro politicians have their way to keep chipping away at public notices, you may never know where all that ‘saved’ money is going,” Richardson said.
Under the proposal, Tennessee would create a state-operated and managed website to house all foreclosure notices. The Tennessee Press Association already offers a public notice website that mirrors all public notices in the state’s member newspapers. Public notices are uploaded to the portal, tnpublicnotice.com, which is a free website for visitors.
“Government websites rarely work the way they’re supposed to. The Tennessee Press Association and member newspapers have addressed the issue of free access to public notice years ago with the website tnpublicnotice.com. It cost taxpayers nothing to build or maintain and provides free access to all Tennessee public notices to anyone with an internet connection. And for the often-forgotten portion of our population that still does not have internet access, the notices are in the local newspaper,” Richardson added.
Walley can be contacted by calling 1-615-741-2368 or email to [email protected].
Jackson may be contacted by calling 1-615-741-1810 or email to [email protected].