Volume 1, Issue II
December 3, 2009
In response to increased demand for broader information about what is happening in regards to public notice around the country, PNRC has reintroduced the monthly newsletter of Record. We hope you find the information useful and welcome submissions for future issues. Please submit any stories or materials you would like to share to: email@example.com
For years, the Pennsylvania legislature has repeatedly introduced legislation to pull public notices from newspapers and instead let notices migrate to government websites, purportedly as a way to save money. Recently a compromise bill, HB 1876, with input and support from the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association passed the House. Instead of removing notices entirely from newspapers, the bill still requires newspaper publication, but also would require a posting of the notice on a website maintained or controlled by a newspaper. The legislation applies to general circulation newspapers and contains a 25% rate cut. This rate structure will remain in place for the next 3 years.
Ballot measures to post ordinances and notices on the city’s website instead of in a newspaper were held in three municipalities this election year. Of the three, only one in Ann Arbor passed. The Michigan Press Association played the leading role in defeating the proposals through a high profile targeted marketing campaign.
Legislation was introduced in early November to permit political subdivisions to post any statutorily required notices or advertisements onto their government website instead of in a newspaper provided that any funds that would have been paid to the newspaper be instead given to a local food bank. PNRC sources say the bill is likely to be tabled.
The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration ( NTIA ) has awarded grants with money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to eight states to fund broadband mapping and planning activities to expand broadband access. The states include: Alabama, Idaho, Maryland, Massachusetts, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. The data collected will become part of the national broadband map NTIA is required to create and make publicly available by February 17, 2011.
The Federal Trade Commission held a 2-day workshop on Dec 1-2 to discuss journalism and the Internet entitled, From Town Criers to Bloggers: How Will Journalism Survive the Internet Age? Of note, the few times that public notices were mentioned they were viewed as subsidies for newspapers. You can see webcasts of the full conference at:
A Virginia court ruled that no court ruling is necessary for a newspaper that seeks to publish legal notices, so long as the newspaper meets the requirements of Va. Code § 8.01-324(A). The Virginia Supreme Court will be further analyzing legal notice issues as it granted writ on Virginian Pilot Media Companies LLC v. Dow Jones & Co. in late October.
State Session Updates
The following states’ legislatures are currently still in session: Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
For a preview of the 2010 legislative session, please click HERE for a session calendar.
Newspaper public notice was the medium of choice in the next step of ongoing IRS investigations of Americans who may be shielding assets in the famously discreet Swiss bank UBS. This notice seeking deceased and missing account holders appeared in national dailies this month. You can find information about the John Doe summons that led to this case at the UBS website…if you know where to look and what to ask for.
You can also read about the case at www.irs.gov. But neither website makes clear that some UBS account holders may be unknowingly within reach of the long –arm of the law.
In other news…
Wishing you all a safe and happy holiday season! See you in 2010.
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of Record is a product of the Public Notice Resource Center, Inc. (PNRC)
The mission of the Public Notice Resource Center is to collect, analyze, and disseminate information on public and private notifications to the public through local newspapers, and to educate the public on the value and use of its right to know.
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PENNSYLVANIA – Ordinary citizens brought a lawsuit against their Township for failure to publish public notice of a hearing concerning zoning of their land. The Municipalities Planning Code requires, among other things, notice of a public hearing once a week for two successive weeks. Because of the failure to follow the Code, they argue that the ordinance and subsequent amendments should be struck down.
MICHIGAN – Voters in Ann Arbor approved a measure on Tuesday giving city officials the option to post ordinances and notices on the city’s website, instead of in a newspaper. Similar ballot measures were defeated in Wayne and Trenton.
The Sidekick, marketed as a mobile messaging device, allows its user to: send SMS messages; IM friends; surf the Web; create an address book, calendar, to do list, or jot down notes — all while playing music, taking pictures, playing games or actually making a call. Sounds impressive right? What could possibly go wrong?
One million or so Sidekick users have now discovered the fragility of online storage of information…
OKLAHOMA — The sheriff and city police chief, along with six other county officials, face 38 misdemeanor counts of violating the state’s Open Meeting Act.
Speed Matters, a project of the Communication Workers of America, released their third annual report on Internet Speeds this week. The results of the report, broadband penetration in the United States is generally “poor” and far behind other industrialized nations. According to the report:
“Only 20 percent of those who took the test have Internet speeds in the range of the top-ranked countries – South Korea, Japan and Sweden. 18 percent do not even meet the FCC definition for current-generation broadband: an always-on Internet connection of at least 768 kbps downstream.”
The report reveals useful information about the average download and upload speeds by state and county. For more information:
A notice of a local church’s plan to expand offsite parking didn’t tell readers where the lots were. It just pointed to the City Hall, where they had to dig further to get the real scoop. The court wisely said that’s not enough.
This is from Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper. Demonstrates that when people visit government websites, identities and opinions can be captured and tracked. An unfortunate misstep by the Obama administration here–but it makes the point about putting public notice on government websites enables government agencies to track the users, for better or for worse.
Cornyn Still Concerned About E-Mail Data Collected by White House Program
Aug. 19, 2009, 1 p.m.
By Jessica Brady
Roll Call Staff
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) directed criticism toward the White House again Wednesday over a recently dissolved Web-based program designed to target misinformation in the health care debate.The National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman, who initially aired his problems with the program in an Aug. 5 letter to President Barack Obama, reiterated his concern Wednesday that the program infringes on First Amendment rights.
“While I am pleased that the program has apparently been dismantled, I remain concerned about the information that was collected during the 13 days that this program was in effect,” Cornyn wrote in another letter Wednesday to Obama.
Cornyn requested the White House address allegations that e-mails sent through its Web site that were flagged because they contained “fishy” information on health care may have been shared with the Democratic National Committee and other third-party groups….
remainder clipped for copyright reasons. Visit www.rollcall.com for the rest of the story.
The City wants to put its notices on its own website, hinting it may want to dispense with the newspaper publication altogether. An online editor explains why he thinks that’s not such a great idea.
Internet use in American farms was up 2 percent from 2007 to 2009–to a total of 59 percent, according to the National Agricultural Statistical Service. A state by state report on Internet access, by connection type, is available from NASS.
Good Jobs First finds the web has been an inadequate tool to inform the public where their economic stimulus dollars have been spent. According to their press release:
“While some states have created impressive websites to disseminate information about their share of the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), most are failing to make effective use of online technology to educate taxpayers about the impact of economic stimulus spending. This is the finding of Show Us the Stimulus, a report released today by Good Jobs First, a non-profit research center based in Washington, DC. ”
The full text of the report as well as state-specific appendices can be found on the Good Jobs First website atwww.goodjobsfirst.org/stimulusweb.cfm.
Metro newspaper sites attacked along with key government sites: North Korea Suspected
Public notice legislation in Pennsylvania has sparked “a real intellectual debate” says state Sen. Chuck McIlhinney, the 10th District Republican. The bill will not likely come before the legislature in Harrisburg until this fall due to budget battles. However, the discussion about where should a public notice be placed to ensure the public’s right to know have already begun.
Most recently, California was able to thwart efforts to mandate the posting of newly enacted ordinances to an agency website. Ultimately, legislation would have given city and county clerks the discretion to post newly enacted ordinances on the agency’s government web site instead of publishing a summary of the ordinance in a newspaper of general circulation. The bill was held at Committee where the members agreed, “printed and published public notices in newspapers of general circulation served the public better than posted notices on government websites.”
Online public meeting notices may not be doing what lawmakers originally intended.
The Utah Legislature passed a new law in 2008 that requires all government entities to post all public meeting notices on a state-run Web site. The Utah public meetings Web site, utah.gov/pmn, was designed with public meeting notices in mind.
The Web site, the first of its kind in the nation, may be receiving some praise for being ahead of other states, but some say it is far from perfect.
“Is the public meeting notice system working? I don’t think it is. We have a way to go,” said, Joel Campbell, vice president of the Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Campbell added, “People aren’t getting their meeting agendas when they need to be.”
“As access to high speed connections have become more prevalent, so too have the number of people that connect to the Internet at home,” said Thom File, a statistician with the Census Bureau Housing and Household Economic Statistics Division. “These data give us a better understanding of who is using the Internet and from where.”
As chairman of the Senate Committee on Community Affairs, I have the job of moving multiple areas of legislation dealing with issues that affect our communities. Among those issues this year is legislation that addresses newspaper advertisements and notices and how such notices are to be made public and the frequency in which they must appear.
Specifically, should public notices no longer be required to be posted on the traditional printed page? Further, should public notices now only appear on the Internet? And who should control the dissemination and archiving of those notices — government or the private sector?
The Senate Community Affairs Committee on March 31 declined to move a bill by State Sen. Ronda Storms to allow local governments to replace the printed notice with an Internet notice and direct mail citizens who signed up to receive notices. According to the Tampa Tribune, Storms said she had no idea how much the shift in practice would cost but noted that cities and counties “loved it.” But a strong coalition that included newspapers and community groups argued that shifting notices to obscure government websites would bar access for many citizens and defeat the purposes of public notice. Interestingly, Storms seems to have joined a string of state legislators lately who have been trying to advance anti-notice bills simply because they do not like newspapers.
Some coverage of the bill action:
Le Templar, editorial page editor of East Valley Tribune in Arizona, explained to Brooke Gladstone, host of On the Media, on New York Public Radio, why newspaper public notice is the right way to go.
Find the interview at: On the Media
The Pew Internet and American Life project today released its latest study of broadband Internet penetration. Noting the Obama administration’s interest in increasing broadband in the approximately 25% of the nation that lacks it, Pew finds that even if it were cheaper and more accessible, a lot of people will still be on the sidelines. Particularly among the elderly and low income Americans, it is simply too much trouble.
“One-in-five Americans currently don’t have broadband for reasons that won’t be addressed by price cuts or a fiber node in the neighborhood.”
Ars Technica website adds its own insights into an earlier New York Times report that the National Archives and Records Administration may have a hard time carrying out its duty to archive the many records of the Bush Administration. The sheer volume of messages and other documents, the ongoing insistence of Vice President Cheney that he is sole arbitor of what can be in the public history and what cannot and (we add this as an editorial note) the way-understaffed workforce at NARA all add to the long lead time before the public can really get to Bush 43′s records. But there is another wrinkle: even the index may be inscrutible. The problem is that it is kept in an older document storage software running on Oracle. And photos are in a proprietary program. Perhaps NARA, with its awesome expertise, will eventually break through–but in what time period and at what cost?
The takeaway: electronic media are not yet up to the task of keeping official records intact and accessible. So far: it’s still all about paper.
Excerpt from the transcript of testimony of Neel Kashkari, Interim Assistant Secretary of Treasury for Financial Stability and Assistant Secretary of Treasury for International Affairs
Before the House Financial Services Committee
Wednesday, Dec 10, 2008
Mr. KASHKARI: Well, thank you, Congressman. It’s something I am personally very focused on. I do a lot of –I give a lot of updates to the country in the form of speeches and hearings such as this so that people can see in granular detail what we’re doing.
But let me also comment on reporting. The legislation calls for many levels of reporting—a tranche report—excuse me, transaction reports within two days of every investment; tranche reports every time we obligate $50 billion; a report to Congress within the first 60 days of our first commitment and then monthly thereafter.
We’ve met every single one of our reporting requirements—every single one—on time. All of this information—there is a wealth of information on the Treasury Web site and I’m having a heck of a time getting people to go there and look at it.
People say we don’t have the data and I say, well, have you looked at the Treasury Web site? It’s all there. And they say, no, I hadn’t looked there. And so we need help getting the message out, because we are putting so much data out there, I’m afraid we’re overloading people with too much information and too much data.
Printed newspaper notices have many advantages. One is that reader behavior is private. The Internet, increasingly, is tracking users’ reading paths.
If residents here want to know what time town offices close, or want to find out when the planning and zoning commission meets, they will have to do it the old fashioned way, by scaring up a phone book and calling Town Hall, or going in person to find out. The town’s official Web site, harwinton.us, has been shut down since early October, and town officials say they do not know when it will be up and running again.
The Idaho Supreme Court handed a victory to the Idaho Business Review in its battle with the Boise-based Idaho Statesman in the placement of private party legal notices. The Court struck down a portion of the public notice statute passed by the legislature in 2004 that steered notices to the largest circulation newspaper. Because of flaws in legislative drafting, the Court found that the new law did not apply to private party notices, such as foreclosure notices placed by attorneys.
The opinion is found at http://www.isc.idaho.gov/opinions/ibr34343.pdf
One of the biggest risks to notice is the naive belief that posting them on websites will protect accountability. But the Internet remains an unstable medium in many ways, not yet ready to carry out the role as “publisher” of record.
Note, for example, the collapse of the City of Madison’s website after a hacker attack in August.
Announcing BidBridge, LLC
PNRC recently became aware of BidBridge LLC, an e-procurement company headquartered in Louisville, KY. The company’s website touts the use of internet bidding over the traditional bidding process. It is unclear whether BidBridge is interested solely in providing an online bidding platform or if it seeks to use the internet for publishing bid notices as well. Current partners claimed by BidBridge include: Georgia Municipal Association, North Carolina League of Municipalities, North Carolina School Boards Association, Arkansas Municipal League, and Oklahoma Municipal League. The company’s website address is www.bidbridge.net.
Minnesota Saves Foreclosure Notices!
The Minnesota Newspaper Association can finally rest now that the legislature is out of session after fighting tooth and nail to preserve the state’s foreclosure notices. The press association fought a tough battle to amend House Bill 3475, which sought to reduce foreclosure notices from 6 to 3, to restore the original number of 6 foreclosure notices. The state’s newspapers, the press association’s lobbyists, and Representative Gene Pelowski (DFL-Winona) played a crucial role in the campaign to save Minnesota’s foreclosure notices.
GlobalNotice Legislation Fails to Pass in Georgia!
The Georgia Press Association had a busy few months fighting Senate Bill 391, a GlobalNotice-backed bill which, if passed, would have established a public notice website. The bill did not pass. The legislature also failed to adopt Senate Bill 540. SB 540 would have required newspapers of record, in order to retain their status as “legal organs”, to agree to participate in a joint legal organ Internet website that contained all public notices in a searchable format. Instead, the legislature passed SR 1166, a resolution that creates a “Public and Legal Notice Study Committee”.
Governor Rejects Maine Internet Bill Citing Lack of Internet Access
After lingering for over a year in the Maine legislature, LD 1878 is finally dead. The bill originally sought to phase out newspaper publication of proposed rule-making notices in favor of on-line posting. Although the bill was amended (H-684) last month to eliminate the phase-out time-line, it retained the requirement that adopted rules be published on a publicly accessible website in addition to newspaper publication. In refusing to sign the bill late last month, Maine’s governor, John Baldacci, noted that the bill would have made government less open since “between 25 percent and 30 percent of the people in Maine do not have access to the Internet, and others are not comfortable using it to access information”. Fortunately for Maine’s public notices, Governor Baldacci understands the digital divide in his state.
Well, At least They Apologized for the Inconvenience
You were out of luck if you tried to access Minnesota’s legislative website earlier this week on the morning of May 13. Instead of offering instant information at your fingertips, this is what you would have found:
“The Website for the Office of the Secretary of State is currently offline for emergency maintenance work. Last weekend, our Website was corrupted by a malicious cyber attack originating outside of the country. We are working very hard to repair the damage. We opted to take the Website offline during the reconstruction process to make sure our clients’ computers we not infected by any viruses left on our Website. We hope to have the Website online again later today, but we want to make sure all of the damage has been repaired before we do so. We at the Office of the Secretary of State apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you!”
The site, found at http://www.sos.state.mn.us/, was working as of 11:37am on May 15, 2008. For now.
Pennsylvania Staves off Senate Bill 428 Again!
The Pennsylvania Newspaper Association successfully fought another attempt to move newspaper public notice into free community newspapers. Senate Bill 428 was first introduced in November 2007 and faced a similar defeat last fall. The press association also expects that Senate Bill 1087, which allows internet publication of notices in lieu of newspaper publication, will not come up for a vote. The bill is currently in the Senate Communications and Technology Committee.
Michigan’s Abandoned Vehicles ‘Un-noticed’
It appears the state of Michigan is not eager to re-unite abandoned vehicles with their owners or else it would not be entertaining Senate Bill 4839. The bill allows the sale of an abandoned vehicle and its contents to be noticed in a newspaper or on the secretary of state’s website. The Michigan Press Association is currently fighting the bill.
Bill Moving Department of Health Rulemaking Notices Online Held for Further Study
If passed, Senate Bill 2946 would require notices for rule adoptions, amendments or repeals to be electronically transmitted to the secretary of state for on-line posting in addition to newspaper print-except for rulemaking by the health department. Advance rulemaking by the department of health would be permissible online in lieu of newspaper publication. However, less than a month after it was introduced, the Senate Government Oversight Committee recommended the measure to be held for further study.
Louisiana Legislature Targets Public Notices
Louisiana House Bill 446 removes the current requirement that Acts of the Legislature be printed in the state’s official journal. Instead, the bill proposes that the Acts be posted on an official government website. The Louisiana Press Association is currently fighting the bill which passed the House and was transmitted to the Senate’s Committee on Governmental Affairs earlier this month. Meanwhile, Senate Bill 206, which the press association supports, passed the Senate earlier this month and is currently in the House Committee on Government Affairs. SB 206 allows publication of notices on an official Internet website in addition to newspaper publication. The bills also bases printing rates for public notices and other publications on the Consumer Price Index for a period of five years.
Five Public Notice Bills in New Jersey…and Counting
New Jersey is facing several public notice bills. Here is just a sampling of what is sure to be a longer list: A477 would allow publication of notices in free newspapers; A1105/S1584 would allow state agencies, counties, and municipalities to satisfy publication requirements by posting on the internet instead of newspaper publication; A1083 would allow government units, schools, and individuals to meet publications requirements by posting notice on an official government website in lieu of newspaper publication if the website has met certain requirements; A1111 would fine and/or require community service for individuals (e.g. an owner, publisher, printer or distributor of a newspaper) who deliver newspapers to households that have requested a discontinuance of newspaper delivery to their homes which could discourage distributions of notices; and A2464 would allow reports and publications produced by the state to be primarily available on the Internet in lieu of printing and distributing of copies.
Mortgage Crisis Helps Newspaper Classifieds
Could the current mortgage crisis help declines in newspaper classifieds which are attributed to increased posting on Internet sites such as Craigslist? Washington City Paper writers Andrew Beaujon and Erik Wemple think so. The reason? Municipalities require foreclosure notices to be placed in local newspapers with broad distribution. The mortgage crisis has led to an increase in foreclosures which has increased newspaper foreclosure notices, an area that Craigslist can’t touch. Even Craigslist’s CEO, Jim Buckman, admits craigslist goers aren’t demanding a legal notices section on the site.
State Session Updates
The following states’ legislatures are out of session: Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
Increase in Foreclosures = Decrease in Notices?
Minnesotans are fighting foreclosure bills that threaten to reduce the number of foreclosure notices printed in newspapers from 6 to 3. The bills are HF 3475 and SF 2912. The Minnesota Newspaper Association (MNA) is working hard to have an amendment passed on HF 3475 that would reinsert the current provision for 6 published notices. MNA is “cautiously optimistic” that it has garnered enough support for the vote expected this week.
Amendment to Maine Bill Offers Some Improvement
LD 1878 has lingered in the Maine legislature for over a year until now. The bill, purportedly proposed as a measure to generate savings for the state, originally sought to phase out newspaper notice publication of proposed rule-making measures and instead post all such notices on a publicly accessible website. However, both the House and the Senate recently adopted Amendment H-684 which, eliminates the section of the bill that phases out newspaper publication of rulemaking notices to make way for an Internet posting requirement. However, the amendment also removes the requirement that adopted rules be published in the newspaper and requires rules to be published on a publicly accessible website. Agencies may choose to publish notice of adopted rules in the newspaper. The bill passed both houses of the legislature with Amendment H-684. Whether the governor will sign the bill is still uncertain.
Pennsylvania Shoppers Bill Not Going Away
The Pennsylvania Newspaper Association continues to fight Senate Bill 428. The bill would allow any government unit to authorize publication in a local shopper lieu of publication in a newspaper. The press association fought the same bill last fall.
More Sunshine in CA: CIGA Meetings to be Noticed on Web or in Newspaper
California Senator Machado wants more transparency of the California Insurance Guarantee Association’s meetings. The California Insurance Guarantee Association, or CIGA, is a statutory entity that provides a mechanism for payment of certain property, casualty, and workers’ compensation insurance claims of insolvent insurance companies. CIGA does not cover mortgage insurance companies. If passed, SB 1467 would require the association to provide notice of its meetings 10 days in advance of the scheduled time either on the association’s website or in a newspaper of general circulation. Increased transparency is a step in the right direction. Interestingly, however, a visit to CIGA’s website yielded several pages that were either unable to be found (“page not found’ message) or under construction. Introduced in the senate, the bill is currently set for a hearing on April 17, 2008.
THIS is the medium where we put forfeiture notices?
On the heels of the federal government’s new decision to post some asset forfeiture notices on www.forfeiture.gov instead of the traditional newspaper media comes a sophisticated phishing scheme. The following email appeared in some mailboxes in April, with a return address at uscourts.com. (We didn’t add in the www so as to avoid creating an active link, because readers definitely do not want to go there.) Sharp eyes know that the official US courts site is www.uscourts.gov. But those who missed the trick were summoned to appear before a federal grand jury and directed to download a new web browser. Woe to those who followed blind justice here. The download no doubt would have left the user wishing he had gone before the grand jury instead.
Here is how the phishing email appears. Beware.
From: United States District Court
Subject: Subpoena in case #59-A-03-0804-CV-82132
AO 88(Rev.11/94) Subpoena in a Civil Case
Issued by the
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SUBPOENA IN A CIVIL CASE
Case number: 59-A-03-0804-CV-82132
United States District Court
YOU ARE HEREBY COMMANDED to appear and testify before the Grand Jury of the United States District Court at the place, date, and time specified below.
Black Holes… on the Internet?
According to new computer science research, difficulty reaching Internet sites may be a result of cyber space black holes. A graduate student and his advisor at the University of Washington designed a program to search for internet gaps that occur when requests to a website or outgoing mail mysteriously get lost or disappear along a pathway that was previously working. The team works to detect black holes that are not a result of user-end or host-server problems. The results of the research indicate cyber black holes are more common than the team thought.
States out of session
For those following public notice bills in other states, the following states are no longer in session (either because they have adjourned or because they were not in session this year): Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming. Please check behind the password-protected section of PNRC’s website at www.pnrc.net for these and other legislative updates.
Internet Bill Passes New Jersey Assembly
New Jersey A.B. 1105 allows municipalities and counties to comply with public notice publication requirements via the internet in lieu of newspaper publication. Sponsored by Joseph Cryan, Louis D. Greenwald, Paul D. Moriarty, Elease Evans (primary sponsors), Joan M. Voss, Ruben J. Ramos, Jr., Nellie Pou, and Upendra J. Chivukula (co-sponsors), the bill passed with little opposition by the Assembly on March 12 (60-15-3). While the bill does not prohibit newspaper notice publication, it enables municipalities and counties to instead publish notice on an official municipal or county website. The bill does not affect notices required by the Open Public Meetings Act. A similar bill is expected to be introduced in the Senate shortly. Passage of the bill may be an effort to appease mayors who are upset over severe state budget cuts for their localities.
Another Internet Bill Surfaces in New Jersey
In addition to NJ A.B. 1105, Mr. Cryan has also introduced NJ AB 1083 which allows a government agency or individual to publish notice on an official government website instead of in a newspaper anytime notice is required to be published under the law. The website would have to be accessible to the public “98% of the time, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year”. The bill would also require an affidavit or certification of posting similar to that required of printed notices, except without notarization, which would state the dates on which a notice was posted. The affidavit would serve as conclusive proof of publication for an electronically published legal notice.
Georgia Senate Not Letting up on Internet Bills
Last month’s issue discussed Georgia’s Senate Bill 391, a GlobalNotice-backed bill sponsored by Senator Cecil Staton (R-Macon) which sought to move public notices out of newspapers and onto a website. While Senate Bill 391 is expected to die, the battle for Georgia’s notices continues this month with the introduction of yet another internet bill by Senator Staton: Senate Bill 540. SB 540 would change the definition of “legal organ” requiring newspapers to participate in a website that posts public notices starting January 1, 2009, in order to be considered legal newspapers. The website would be approved by the Superior Court Clerks Cooperative and contain all legal notices published by legal newspapers in Georgia for at least two years from the date of posting. Accessing and searching the website would be free of charge.
Federal Forfeiture Website Noticed at GAC
Public notice was on the minds of members attending the National Newspaper Association’s 47th annual Government Affairs Conference (GAC) last week in Washington, D.C. While meeting with their state legislators on Capitol Hill, attendees presented their representatives with a legislative briefing on a federal rule change that moves federal forfeiture notices from newspapers to a website administered by the United States Department of Justice. The website can be found at www.forfeiture.gov.
Updates on Previous Bills
February was a busy month for public notices in many states. The following are updates on bills discussed in our last issue.Mississippi Senate Bill 2043 died in committee last month. The bill offered publishers the option of printing legal notices in free newspapers. Maryland House Bill 311 was withdrawn last month. The bill sought to decrease the number of notices run in newspapers while allowing free papers the right to publish the same. Meanwhile, Maryland Senate Bill 216 was amended to re-insert the number of notices originally required for publishing (3). Prior to the recent amendment, the bill aimed to reduce the number of foreclosure notices in the state from 3 to 1. Ohio House Bill 443, a GlobalNotice-backed bill, remains tied up in committee while Indiana’s House Bill 1297 died last week. HB 1297 would have required newspapers with websites to publish notices on their websites in addition to print.
HAPPY SAINT PATRICK’S DAY!!!
Fighting for Maryland’s Public Notices
Public notice issues are heating up in Maryland. Already, the legislature is entertaining two separate bills that affect public notices in newspapers. The first, Senate Bill 216, aims to reduce the number of public notices on foreclosures in the state from 3 to 1. The second, House Bill 311, would decrease the number of public notices run in paid newspapers while allowing public notices to run in free newspapers. A hearing on S.B. 216 is scheduled for February 20th.
Georgia Fights Internet Public Notice Bill
Senate Bill 391 authorizes Georgia’s Secretary of State to establish a public notice website on which any public notice required by law may be printed instead of in a newspaper, except those required to be printed in a county’s legal organ or in a municipality’s official gazette. The bill provides for a $25 posting fee. Ten percent of the profits generated by the website’s operation will be remitted back to counties for use in the public interest. This bill is reportedly a GlobalNotice-backed bill. The Georgia Press Association is organized to fight it. Rumors surfaced that the intent is to pass this bill through the Senate and then substitute another bill in the House that would put all notices on the GN website.
Public Notices in Mississippi’s Free Newspapers
The Mississippi Senate is currently considering passage of a bill that would allow free newspapers to run public notices. Senate Bill 2043 offers those publishing public notices the option of printing notices in a newspaper of general circulation or a free newspaper. If passed, the legislation would take effect on July 1, 2008.
Global Notice in Ohio
Lest we think Global Notice was on hiatus, it’s back and proposing legislation that would repeal the state’s current law that requires newspaper publication of public notices. The legislation, House Bill 443, establishes a state-sanctioned public notice website. The bill bears other hallmarks of GN legislation, namely a posting fee that does not exceed $10 and the state’s preclusion from liability related to the website’s operation.
Notices of Rule-Making in Rhode Island On-line
Rhode Island’s governor is trying to move notice of state department or agency rule changes out of the public’s purview by allowing notices to be published on-line in lieu of newspapers. The idea itself is barely noticeable, buried in the state’s 119-page budget proposal. Barely over half of Rhode Island’s residents have access to the internet. Authorization for such a measure would take place on April 1, 2008. The bill prompted a story in USA Today.
Indiana on the Offensive!
Hoosier State Press Association has been working with the state legislature to pass a bill requiring newspapers with websites to publish public notices on their websites in addition to printing them in their newspapers. The effort may serve as a pre-emptive measure designed to illustrate that newspapers are already placing notices online when confronted by companies, like Global Notice, advancing public notice bills. The legislation, House Bill 1297, was introduced on February 1, 2008.
E-Budget Not Easy to Use
Even a senior Number Cruncher on Capitol Hill–the very guy looking to save $$ for the government–agrees with Washington Post journalist Ruth Marcus: the online version just doesn’t work. The complaint was about the Office of Management and Budget’s tightfisted decision to make the president’s 9.8 pound proposed budget available only online instead of in the thumping book form journalists are used to. But the staff director of the House Budget Committee says he still gets the paper version: “Online is much harder to use. It makes the information less accessible and harder to ferret out.”
Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen ruled that a county could not substitute its own website for a newspaper notice. The statute forbids it, he said. In any event, he opined, “Virtually anyone can buy a newspaper but not everyone has a computer with access to the Internet.”
Maryland Fighting Bill That Reduces Public Foreclosure Notices
Publishers were hopeful that good public notice of foreclosures would remain in Maryland in an era when the adequacy of due process has been challenged. An early draft of SB 216 that would have reduced public information is being hard fought by Maryland Delaware DC Press Association. The bill was filed in the Senate today.
Foreclosure Notices Violating Due Process Rights
Cases in at least two states are highlighting the potential of due process violations posed by lack of notice in ever-increasing foreclosure cases. In Griffin v. Bierman, Maryland resident Joyce Griffin argues she lost her home in a foreclosure sale without receiving proper notice. Griffin maintains she only learned of the sale of her home after it was sold. Similarly, in Sidun v. Wayne County Treasurer, a 75 year-old Michigan resident claims the county’s treasurer failed to provide her with notice of her property’s foreclosure sale until it was too late to redeem it. Although Ms. Sidun’s address was listed on the deed of her property, the county failed to mail a notice to her address. Mailed notice often fails. Newspaper notice is intended, among other things, to spread the word so neighbors and friends might notice and alert the homeowner. It also helps tenants to learn of foreclosures, because mailed notice usually goes to the landlord.
New York Bill Affects Public Notices In Erie County
Part of an act to amend Erie County’s tax act, recently introduced Bill Number A08345 also reduces the number of newspapers in which public foreclosures notices must run. Section 11-12.0 “Public Notice of Foreclosure” requires the county attorney to publish a foreclosure notice once a week for 6 successive weeks in only one newspaper, instead of two.
County Cuts Size of Public Notices
In an apparent effort to reduce cost, Spotsylvania County (VA) recently reduced the size of public notices of Board of Supervisor meetings. The shorter notices list the time, date, and place of meetings but direct reader to a county website for meeting agendas. The new notices do not violate open meeting laws. Although Spotsylvania County Administrator Randy Wheeler estimates the change will save $15,000 a year, residents without internet access are questioning the move. According to the county’s Information Technology Department, approximately 40% of Spotsylvania homes may not have internet access. Lower Internet penetration is typical of rural areas.
Oklahoma and Texas Public Notice Websites
Residents of Oklahoma and Texas can now find and search public notices published in their newspapers on the internet! Oklahoma’s public notice website, www.OklahomaNotices.com, is a result of a joint effort by Oklahoma newspapers and the Oklahoma Press Association over the past year. Oklahoma Press Association Executive Vice President Mark Thomas remarks, “Our use of the Internet provides another opportunity for newspapers to keep citizens better informed.” Simiarly, TexasLegalNotices.com is also a collaborative effort by Texas newspapers, the Texas Press Association, and the Texas Daily Newspaper Association. Click below for links to both these sites.
Open Season on Public Notice Begins as Legislators Come Back to Work
Mid January to late May is the busy time for state legislatures in most states. Early indications of public notice activity in several of the usual states facing difficulties—such as New Jersey, whose legislature flirts with editorial retribution by eliminating notice altogether—have already begun to reach PNRC. Thankfully, some state chambers are dark. One that will not be in session this spring is Texas, where SB 1812 nearly passed last year.
Public Notice Issues Abroad: Lack Notice Leads to Violence in South Asian State
An effort to demolish illegal encroachments in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh without any notice has angered local residents. An angry mob protesting against authorities over the demolition in the Chowkaghat area of Varanasi city resulted in violence and injuries to 3 people, including a policeman. One resident called the lack of notice unconstitutional.
Pennsylvania: Yes to Open Records! No to Newspapers?
Pennsylvania’s legislature appears determined to overhaul the state’s notoriously weak open records law by changing the long-standing assumption that government records are closed to the public. The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has unanimously passed a bill that would overhaul the state’s open records law. Yet, the same spirit of government accessibility is less apparent in two bills affecting public notices in the state’s newspapers. One of the bills, Senate Bill 1087, which aims to move public notices out of newspapers has already moved out of committee. Similarly, Senate Bill 428, which seeks to move public notices into shoppers, is also expected to move out of committee this week. Pennsylvania isn’t alone; Michigan also expects an internet public notice bill to be introduced shortly.
Maine Legislature Not Newspaper-Friendly
An amendment to LD-1878, which prohibits the state government and the Maine Land Use Regulation Commission from publishing public notices in newspapers after July1, 2008, might see a minor improvement through a recently proposed amendment by the Legislature’s State and Local Government Committee. The amendment, H-531, delays the ban on publishing public notices in newspapers until July 1, 2009, and removes the Land Use Regulation Commission from the bill’s purview. While the amendment is a small improvement, the legislature seems bent on taking public notices out of newspapers. For the full text and summary of both the bill and the amendment, click on the hyperlink below and then click on “Bill Text” in the middle of the page or on “H-531” in the lower left side of the page.
Above and Beyond Public Notices: Taxation with Representation in Utah!
Anger over increased property taxes in Utah has inspired the Legislature’s Revenue and Taxation Interim Committee to approve a draft bill that makes significant property tax hikes contingent upon voter approval. Increases in property taxes at the rate of inflation require public notice and a hearing under the current law. The draft bill adds a new provision that would require the district to place tax increases that are higher than the rate of inflation on the ballot for voter approval. While some residents support the bill, others argue it takes power away from local counties and would have little impact on slowing tax increases driven by appreciating property values.
eNotices.com Selling State Domain Names
eNotices.com, another company touting the internet as the medium for posting public notices, is currently selling 74 state-related domain names. “We feel what we want to accomplish can be done without the use of domains we’re liquidating,” explains Enotices.com Vice-President of Sales, Jason Christie, on the company’s website. Christie adds, “Both newspaper and internet-related companies have shown interest in several of our domain names, we wanted to open the sale up to anyone who may have an interest.” Another link on the company’s sites informs readers that the Texas Press Association has purchased TXPUBLICNOTICES.COM and TXLEGALNOTICES.COM for an undisclosed amount. While a call to the company went unanswered, www.ebay.com lists the starting bid for a domain name at 499 dollars.
All of Georgia’s Public Notices in Newspapers. . .and Online
Georgia Press Association recently announced 100 percent electronic coverage of public notices from the state’s 159 counties on it’s website, www.GeorgiaPublicNotice.com. While public notices are still printed in the legal newspaper of each county, GPA’s Past President Burgett Mooney considers the additional use of the internet media important to newspapers’ stewardship. The website was started four years ago partly to ward off potential legislative efforts to do the same via third-party companies or government agencies.
Tennessee Examines the Issue of Internet Public Notices
Sean Ireland, of the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association, explores the battle between internet companies like Global Notice and eNotice and newspapers over the proper medium for publishing public notices. Arguments from both sides are presented and suggestions are made to combat changes in public notice laws that would move public notices from the long-trusted medium of local newspapers to third-party internet sites.
Other News. . .
A Call for Affidavit-Related News Stories
PNRC is in the process of creating a database for members that contains stories showcasing the importance of public notices in the affidavit process. If you have any news stories involving requests for affidavits or reflecting the way in which affidavits are used and their importance, kindly email them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
PNRC is in the process of updating our website. An updated legislative section will soon be available behind the password protected area. Thank you for your patience while we continue to improve the site.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS ! ! !
Floridians Bitten by the Newspaper Bug
Whoever says that newspapers are a dying breed needs to talk to Floridians. A statewide survey of 1,000 adults conducted by American Opinion Research for the Florida Press Association reveals that 82% of adults read at least one newspaper during the week and 55% read a newspaper on any given weekday, higher than the national average. The survey revealed almost equally strong results for readership among Hispanics and African-American readers. The study also reveals that Floridians like to read their public notices in newspapers: 60% remember reading a public notice and even more want to continue reading public notices in newspapers. A majority of Florida residents trust newspapers as a source for public notices more than any other media, including government public notice websites.
Tennessee Basks in the Sunshine!
The Knoxville News Sentinel and a citizen’s group successfully sued the Knox County Commission for ignoring the state’s Sunshine Laws in the selection of 12 replacements for term-limited positions. The court examined whether county commissioners had given sufficient public notice of meetings, adequate opportunity for public input, and whether the deliberations were public. Appointed behind closed doors and through secret meetings, the former officials were friends and family of the commission that were ousted by the court’s decision.
Maine Residents All Fired Up Over Fire Department’s ‘UN-Noticed’ Fate
Etna’s Fire Department was shut down due to personnel issues last month. A decision on the future of the fire department of the small town in Maine was to be determined at a widely publicized public meeting scheduled for 6pm on October 22. However, without any notice, the town’s selectmen changed the meeting time to 5:30pm and entered into executive session. The selectmens unanimous vote to re-open the Fire Department is void if the meeting violated Maine’s Freedom of Access Act.
Scarier than Halloween: The FCC
The FCC made a frightful announcement during Halloween week: Seattle’s long-standing media ownership issue would be considered at a hearing in Seattle, Washington, on November 9. The announcement, made after business hours on November 2, gave Washingtonians less than a week to become aware of a critical issue. The short notice reinforced rumors that FCC Chairman Kevin Martin intends to eliminate long-standing media ownership limits before the end of this year. FCC Democratic Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein called the move outrageous and an attempt to exclude the public.
Wisconsin Explains Open Meetings Law to Municipal Leaders
Municipal leaders in northeastern Wisconsin were told how to avoid violating Wisconsin’s Open Meetings Law last Tuesday in the fifth of six state-wide sessions set up by the state attorney general’s office to educate community leaders about the importance of publicizing government meetings through public notices. The session helped attendees better understand the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s interpretation of the “reasonable” standard it created last summer when the court revised the state’s open meetings guidelines.
Please join PNRC in welcoming our newest member, the Kentucky Press Association!!!