Update on Public Notice Bill (HB 7049) (by Judiciary; State Affairs Committees, Reps. Fine, Grail, Fischer)

Update on Public Notice Bill (HB 7049) (by Judiciary; State Affairs Committees, Reps. Fine, Grail, Fischer)

As indicated in the last e-bulletin, the House Judiciary Committee recently filed a proposed committee bill (PCB JDC 22-02) placing legal notices on government websites. It is very similar to the bill that passed the House the last couple of sessions.

Despite a good deal of opposition testimony, the Committee passed the bill on a party line vote, 14 to 5.  Since then, the bill has been assigned a number (HB 7049) and referenced to the State Affairs Committee, which heard the bill last week, and passed it on a party line vote. The bill will be heard on the House floor this week, and it is expected to pass that chamber. It will likely then be placed in messages to the Senate for possible action.

At this point, there is no Senate companion bill, but we are communicating with leadership and watching for any movement in that chamber. We are asking members to contact their Senators and House members to oppose this bill.  Also, stories and editorials would be helpful.

Placing legal notices on governmental websites, as this bill would do, is a bad idea for the many reasons members are familiar with.

Further, this last-minute bill terminates the reasonable and sensible compromise that was reached last year in HB 35, which just became effective Jan 1, 2022. That good bill expanded the types of newspapers that qualify for the posting of public notices under Chapter 50, thereby furthering the goal of increasing reach and competition, and reducing the cost of notices. The bill also allows government agencies to opt to publish government notices solely on a qualified newspaper website, potentially reducing government costs.

The newspaper industry, bill sponsors and others spent a lot of time and resources to implement this good bill and it needs to be given a chance. Thank you in advance for your support.

Public Access to Personal Information in Crash Reports and Traffic Citations (SB 1614 by Sen. Harrell; HB 1121 by Rep. Brannan)

Currently, the law exempts crash reports from the open records laws but only for a limited time– 60 days. However, during the 60-day closure, the reports can be made immediately available to certain parties such as victims, insurance and governmental entities, and certain media.

The bill as originally filed ended media’s access during the 60-day exemption and beyond. However, we have worked with the sponsor and agency and the immediate media access language (with some redactions allowed) is now again in the bill.

The bill also exempts driver information contained in a traffic citation and prohibits using driver information contained in traffic citations for commercial purposes.

As a result of the changes, FPA is now neutral on the bill.  It will be heard on the House and Senate floors this week.