Blunt, Curtman tout new restrictions on government-funded ads
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri Senator Roy Blunt descended on the state capitol today to support a measure from Rep. Paul Curtman that largely mirrors Blunt’s own bill in the U.S. Senate.
Curtman’s bill is HB 430, “The Taxpayer Transparency Act of 2015,” and would require state government departments to indicate in “certain educational and advertising materials” whether or not the materials were “produced and disseminated at taxpayer expense.”
“I don’t think anybody disagrees with the fact that the government needs to communicate with the people,” Curtman said. “But when the government does communicate with the people, we have to make sure we’re applying certain checks and balances and that we are offering that transparency so that way they understand and they know we’re paying for those advertisements with their money.”
Curtman’s bill is largely inspired by a similar legislation in the U.S. Senate that Blunt is sponsoring and that Congressman Billy Long, R-Missouri, sponsored last year in the House, which passed but died in the Senate. Blunt said the federal legislation was largely in response to advertisements on television, radio, online and in print funded by the Department of Health and Human Services to promote citizens to sign up health insurance through an exchange established by the Affordable Care Act.
Blunt said his main concern was whether an ad produced by, for example, the U.S. Army was placed on television as a public service announcement — at no cost — or whether the Army purchased time to advertise on the airwaves like any other business or sponsor.
“I would actually not know if I saw an Army recruiting ad,” Blunt told reporters. “I would be pretty confident that the Army paid to put that ad together. I wouldn’t be at all confident whether that’s a public service ad that the station is putting on for free or the Army is actually paying for the airtime like any other advertiser would be. All we’re saying is that it’s easy to clarify those two things.”
Blunt said that advertisements paid for by HHS encouraging sign ups for Obamacare led U.S. House Republicans to “handily” pass a similar bill last year, and said he hoped that the legislation could be brought up in the senate.
Curtman’s bill has been referred to the House Committee on Government Oversight and Accountability. No hearing is yet scheduled.