Q: Can you tell me if there’s a law that requires political advertising to be paid for in advance?
A: The law does not require political ads to be prepaid, but prepayment is a wise business decision. Here’s why:
1. If the candidate loses, you may have a hard time collecting.
2. Corporations are legally prohibited from making political contributions.
3. If the candidate does not pay and your newspaper is a corporation, you could be accused of making an illegal (and unreported) political contribution.
TPA strongly advises that every newspaper establish and adhere to a policy that simply says “All political advertising must be paid in advance.”
Q: Taxpayers in our county recently received a postcard from the county tax office instructing them to go to the tax office website for information specific to taxes on their property. Does the county have the authority to do this? Will readers be notified through a public notice about this?
A: Last-minute changes to SB-2, the sweeping property tax reform bill of the 2019 Legislature, eliminated a requirement for a newspaper notice of how tax rates are being calculated. Texas Press Association was able to stave off such a change during the regular committee process, but the requirement for newspaper notice was quietly deleted in conference committee before the final version of the bill was rushed to passage in both houses. There wasn’t adequate time for members to study the finished bill, much less discuss last-minute changes with their constituents. And even if they had objected to parts of the bill, further amendments were off the table. It was a straight up-or-down vote.
According to the bill analysis on the legislature’s website, the information required to be posted online includes “the no-new-revenue tax rate, rather than the effective tax rate, the voter‑approval tax rate, rather than the rollback tax rate, and an explanation of how they were calculated.”
While they’re not required to do so, some local tax officials have elected to purchase modest newspaper notices to call attention to their website information. It’s good to see elected officials who still appreciate the value of newspaper notice.
Q: I’d like to charge interest each month on my advertising past due accounts. What is the maximum I can charge in Texas?
A: According to William Purce, Senior Supervising Examiner, Office of Consumer Credit Commissioner, Texas law establishes the maximum interest rates or charges that a creditor may impose on an obligor. A creditor means a person who loans money or otherwise extends credit. If a creditor invoiced an individual for the purchase of a good or service and required the individual to pay the invoice before a certain date, the creditor may impose interest at a rate of: (1) 6% per annum (.5% per month) on the principal amount of the credit extended beginning on the 30th day after the date on which the amount is due, if there is no written agreement to charge interest; or (2) 18% per annum (1.5% per month) on the principal amount of the credit, if the written agreement specifies the interest rate of 18% per annum on the principal amount of the credit.