HB 7049 GROUND PLAN for FPA Members Publishing Legal Notices

HB 7049 GROUND PLAN for FPA Members Publishing Legal Notices

At last week’s Media Conference’s session on public notices, we discussed how best to coordinate strategy going forward with respect to the new public notice law, HB 7049. As you know, the bill allows counties or their designated entity to create and operate in place of newspaper notice a “publicly accessible website” to provide public notices and legal ads. If a county opts to set up such a site, other local government entities like municipalities and school boards can then use that site to post their own notices. As you can see, under the bill, the counties will be the central focus of any new website. [The bill becomes effective Jan. 1, 2023].

To that end, we have heard that at least three counties are meeting or planning to meet soon to discuss the possibility of implementing the website-only option. One of the first steps the county will likely address is the estimated cost of such a website, as required by the bill, and counties will be seeking this information. We have also heard that at least one county (Broward) (contact: Rose Williams, Sun-Sentinel) is looking into the feasibility of designating the local newspaper as their publicly accessible website, and this may be of interest in other counties, as well.

In light of this activity, to assist coordinating a state-wide approach, we ask that each member remain vigilant about any new developments or meetings by your local governments (especially your county or counties) regarding the website-only option. In particular, keep your lines of communications open with your county contacts and inform them proactively about the downsides of website-only notice. If a meeting is scheduled on the issue, the newspaper should be reaching out to individual commissioners and staff to discourage any vote in favor of such option. Also, please let us know if your county is moving in this direction so that we can let other members know what is happening in other counties

Attached is a spreadsheet that connects most of Florida’s 67 counties with the newspaper publisher/editor/ad director in that readership area. We are asking that each newspaper representative listed on the spreadsheet (or a person assigned by you) to engage with county staff, as indicated above.

To help you make your points In that regard, attached are the FPA Q and A’s that contain bullet points you can refer to in pointing out the downsides of the website-only option. These point out 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 community sectors that will not look for these notices online or to navigate the county websites to find them. These points are made in more detail on pp. 5 and 7-8 of the Q and As. We are also looking at partnering with a university or consultant to provide an estimate of costs related to mailing, as such mailing is required by the bill.

We appreciate your help on this important project. Together we can get our grassroots message out to county officials that the best and most economical and less risky path is to continue publishing notices in the local newspaper where citizens expect to find this information.