The N.C. Senate passed legislation Tuesday to increase access to public and legal notices by providing local governments an option to make those notices free to view on their own websites instead of requiring citizens to purchase newspapers to view them. The increased efficiency of allowing city and county governments to post their own notices will save local tax dollars, and revenues generated from other posts will be used to help pay public school teachers more.
Senate Bill 343 would:
- Provide local governments an option to publish public and legal notices on their own websites and charge fees to law firms that post them. Traffic to these websites would certainly increase once this public service is offered. It will be up to each local community to decide if pursuing this option is in their citizens’ best interest.
- Enable local governments to post notices of their own upcoming meetings, public hearings and other business electronically, in lieu of purchasing newspaper ads with their residents’ hard-earned tax dollars.
- Direct that 50 percent of all fees collected by local governments for legal notices be spent on local teacher salary supplements – which could generate tens of millions of additional dollars to increase teacher pay.
- Require newspapers that run public notices in their print editions to also post them on their websites at no charge.
- Incorporate provisions supported by newspaper publishers to give more opportunities to view notices for those who purchase newspaper subscriptions or visit newspaper websites.
“This bill is a win-win: it provides those who cannot afford or who do not wish to subscribe to a newspaper with free access to important information while saving tax dollars and increasing teacher pay. Our world and technology have progressed dramatically since the current system was developed in the early 1900s. Newspaper readership is declining, and most people use the internet and smartphones to obtain instant information for free through websites like Craigslist rather than buying a newspaper to read the classified section,” said Sen. Trudy Wade (R-Guilford), a primary sponsor of the legislation.
“While some for-profit news corporations are lobbying hard against this bill out of their own self-interest, it is not the government’s job to subsidize them, and they are absolutely welcome to revamp their business models and lower their rates to compete in the free market. Besides, we have already seen several North Carolina cities and towns adopt this practice of posting public notices, and their local newspapers are doing just fine,” she said.
The legislation is supported by the N.C. League of Municipalities and the N.C. County Commissioners Association.