Image of Lady Justice by Einar Einarsson Kvaran aka Carptrash via Wikimedia Commons.

A House bill has been introduced that would allow local governments to post legal notices on the Internet instead of in hard-copy newspapers by Jan. 1, 2025. The bill is believed to have a good chance of moving in the December lame-duck legislative session.

Under House Bill 5560, local governments would phase-in specified protocols for posting notices online over the next 10 years. These protocols would be more stringent for some kinds of notices than for others.

Newspapers, which are already struggling to compete against Internet sites for advertising dollars, have a great deal at stake concerning the legal notice posting issue. Their main argument against House Bill 5560 is that the integrity of the legal notice posting system could suffer if the hard-copy print requirement ends.

Local governments have been required to post legal notices in hard-copy newspapers for decades. This requirement is costly for taxpayers since they are on the hook to pay the costs to newspapers. However, one of the advantages of a hard-copy posting requirement is that the notices cannot be altered after they have been published.

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A concern about having notices posted online, instead of published in hard-copy print, is that over time it could lead to government officials becoming less careful about the accuracy of posted notices. This might occur as a result of the officials knowing that mistakes in notices posted online can be covered up by fixing them even after the notice had already been posted for a period of time.

In such a circumstance, members of the public could read a notice that contains misinformation, act on that misinformation and afterward never know for certain if they’d originally misread the notice or if the notice had originally included misinformation that had later been corrected.

Against this are the arguments that people are increasingly getting most of their information over the Internet and by being allowed to post legal notices online, instead of in hard-copy print, local governments are likely to save taxpayer dollars.

House Bill 5560, sponsored by House Local Government Committee Chair Amanda Price, R-Holland, was introduced May 8, 2014. Price could not be reached for comment.

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Bill Would Bring Public Notice Rule Changes