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Latest on HB 7049 County Website-only Option

Latest on HB 7049 County Website-only Option

The new public notice law HB 7040 is now effective. It 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. Under the bill, the counties will be the central focus of any new website.


LATEST DEVELOPMENTS

We are hearing that several counties are moving forward to consider or implement the new website- only option, as follows:

Brevard County is still publishing notices in the local paper but has already decided to move what government notices they can onto a county website. The decision is apparently being driven by politics not economics. The county has issued an RFP and their IT department is soliciting several quotes for software solutions that will enable them to do this. See https://brevardfl.gov/LegalAdsPublicNotices.

Manatee County is moving forward with this new option but is also still publishing notices in the local paper. The webpage contains a form allowing citizens to obtain notices via mail: https://manatee.hosted.civiclive.com/government/board_of_county_commissioners/bcc_meetings_and_agendas/public_hearing_notices.

Polk County commissioners held a workshop in August to discuss the issue and staff is currently looking into the option so the County can meet further over the next couple of months. County staff indicates they will await input from Polk cities until Dec. 2, and to report back to the Board by late Dec. or early Jan.

As previously reported, the Citrus County Commission initially wanted to move forward to an Oct. 18 public hearing on the new website option but after a substantial educational and outreach effort by Chronical staff to the commission and public, the matter never came to a vote and died on the agenda.

Contact John Murphy at the Chronicle for any further information on what occurred at the meeting. Also, see on FPA’s website the recording of the VIP roundtable discussion and the Chronicle’s power point outlining its efforts regarding county officials and outreach to the public.

Monroe County is looking into the option and the County Attorney will investigate for further action.

Broward County has looked at the new option and back in August reached out to the Sun-Sentinel and others about the possibility of a newspaper being the designated website.

St. Lucie County commission, at a July meeting, announced they were moving forward with a plan to test a legals website in October. However, they never mentioned it again, and we are still trying to verify if they even moved forward far enough to test it.

Duval and Pasco Counties. We have heard these counties may have at least discussed the option but we have not heard of any movement.


CONTINUED RECOMMENDED ACTION

Each member newspaper publishing public notices/legal ads should remain vigilant about new developments or meetings by your local governments (especially county or counties) regarding the website-only option. In particular, keep your lines of communications open with county contacts and inform them proactively about the downsides of website-only notice.

If a meeting is scheduled on the issue, the local newspaper will be responsible for reaching out to individual commissioners and staff to educate them and discourage any vote in favor of such option.

If your county decides to move forward, consider implementing an ad campaign to let local citizens know about this and the downsides to transparency and notice.

Our PN marketing group will continue to meet biweekly regarding new development.

Please let FPA staff (Jim and/or Sam) know what is happening in your county.


FPA RESOURCES

Here are some resources we will continue to expand on:

  • With the help of Sandpaper Marketing, we are developing an ad campaign (similar to the one for Citrus County) for counties who have decided to move forward with the digital option to help inform citizens and highlight downsides.
  • Talk Tracks/Points: To help you make your case, the latest FPA Q and A’s can help.
  • See also the resources previously indicated in our August 31 ebulletin: 1) breakdown by Alex time/costs newspapers expendplacing the notices; 2) FPA testimony used at the Citrus County hearing; and 3) talk track that we used during the legislative hearings on the issue with information relating to internet usage by Florida citizens and the 2020 Mason Dixon poll regarding public notices in newspapers.