N.C. Public Notice Legislation Resurrected as Local Bill

North Carolina State Sen. Trudy Wade’s battle to eliminate public notice in newspapers is set to move to a new front this week. According to the News & Record, the state legislature is expected to consider a local version of her public notice bill when it reconvenes on Wednesday.

Wade’s previous public notice bills have been state legislation. Even her measure that was vetoed in July by Gov. Roy Cooper — which had been amended minutes before it passed to focus solely on Guilford County — was a North Carolina bill. Like that bill, her latest effort would affect only Guilford County, but it has been written as a piece of local legislation. Local legislation can’t be vetoed by the governor.

The details of the new bill haven’t been unveiled, but observers expect it to be similar to the vetoed bill. That legislation would have moved court-ordered legal notices in Guilford to the county government’s website and authorized local government units in the county to move their notices from newspapers to the county website or to their own websites. The vetoed bill also would have allowed the county to charge private parties and other government units for the notices published on its site.

Legislation eliminating newspaper notice has cleared the North Carolina Senate by wide margins on several previous occasions. Observers expect the new, Guilford County-only bill to pass the Senate again this week. So if there’s a close vote we can expect to see it in the House, which until this year had blocked Wade’s previous attempts to curtail public notice. However, the News & Record — which is based in Wade’s hometown of Greensboro, the Guilford County seat — notes that its interviews with Wade’s Republican colleagues from other parts of the state indicate that even those who support newspaper notice would be reluctant to buck her on this new, local bill.

“The small-town newspapers that I work with are very important in getting the word out: I’m not in favor of doing that to the small-town papers,” state Rep. Larry Yarborough (R-Roxboro) told the News & Record. “But Trudy Wade has been pushing for this for a long time. And she certainly seems to think that it would save her local governments a lot of money.”

The GOP holds a 74-46 majority over the Democratic Party in the House. 

The News & Record also notes that the state’s counties and cities have few home-rule powers and that “(t)he technique of tailoring laws to local jurisdictions is not unique nationally, but North Carolina relies on it more heavily than many states.”