Monday, May 9, 2011

Online Public Notice Bill Draws Disapproval from Papers

The Pennsylvania Newspaper Association is criticizing a bill that would let local governments post legal notices on their websites, rather than in newspapers.

Representative Tom Creighton’s bill would allow a municipality to publish notices on its own website, or on a contractor’s site. The local government could also continue to work with papers when announcing events like building sales, tax increases, or school closings.

Newspaper Association Director of Government Affairs Deborah Musselman says letting boroughs publish on their own would eliminate an independent watchdog of government action and reduce transparency.

“What we’re talking about is the local government organization, you know, the borough saying, ‘Trust us. We’ll let you know everything that’s important to know,’” says Musselman. “It’s the fox building and guarding the henhouse.”

Musselman says newspapers already post the notices to their own websites, and to an aggregate site. She says those websites are also better built to handle traffic than local government websites.

According to the Newspaper Association, municipalities usually spend about half of one percent of their budgets on publishing legal notices.

The bill is awaiting a vote in the House Local Government Committee.

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