Monitor Your Local/County Government re: Website-Only Option
While the new public notice bill (HB 7049) is not effective until Jan. 1, 2023, we have heard that at least one county is already meeting to discuss the possibility of implementing the county website-only public notice option contained in the new bill. The first step for this county will be to determine what current newspaper costs for both the county and surrounding governmental entities and they are currently seeking this information.
In light of this activity, please be alert to any new developments or meetings by your local governments (especially your county or counties) regarding the website-only option. In particular, make sure your staff/journalists are informed about the issue so that they can watch for any county commission agenda items or other notice that may address this.
If a meeting is scheduled on the issue, the newspaper should consider taking a proactive approach including meeting/communicating with your commissioners and/or staff to help educate them on the bill. In that regard, the FPA Q and A’s contain bullet points you can refer to in pointing out the downsides of the website-only option local governments should consider in the decision-making process. (pp. 5, 7-8).
Some of the basic points that should be made include the costs that website-only would entail including new staff (FTE’s), mailing expense, and technology. Further, the county will face additional potential liability for running the notices as well as community push back where notices are missed or inaccurate. Many counties will include substantial sectors of the community that will not look for these notices online or to navigate the county websites to find them.
Such local reach out and education will go a long way to keep the notices in the local newspaper.