Sunday, March 01, 2009

Online Legal Notice Posting -- A prudent approach to notice posting

The ULCT has been working closely with Sen. Steve Urquhart to address the issues surrounding the posting of public notices and legal notices. Sen. Urquhart has introduced SB208 Utah Public Notice Website Amendments, which allows for the posting of legal notices on the state notice website. In doing so, the bill also stipulates that the posting of such notices on the website satisfies the legal notice requirements, therefore waiving the need to post the legal notices in a newspaper of general circulation.

In doing our research for the bill, it is clear that the bill will certainly save local governments a considerable amount of money. We surveyed several cities and towns and on average, most cities were spending between $10,000 and $50,000 on notice postings. In light on the economic climate as well as diminishing public resources, it is our opinion that a move in this direction is both fiscal responsible and prudent.

Some have argued that removing the requirement to post in the newspaper will significantly diminish notice, but we would beg to differ. As hard-copy subscriptions continue to drop and online dissemination of news becomes the norm, it appears that a move to online postings may actually provide enhanced notice. If there is sincere concern about diminished notice, an easy answer would be to provide both online and hard-copy links to the Utah Public Notice website from the major newspapers in the state. Such notice could be given in a very low cost manner and ensure enhanced public awareness of the notice website. In addition, because the bill is permissive it would also allow jurisdictions to place additional notices in the newspaper if there were unique circumstances where such notice would be prudent.

In light of some of the concern raised about Internet access in rural parts of the state, Sen. Urquhart has also intended to limit the scope of the bill to counties of the first and second class, where Internet access is not a concern.

One must question the sincerity of the newspaper's concern, when they were part of the coalition that lobbied for the initial Utah Meeting Notice website, where meeting notices could be linked to and the requirement to provide individual notice to the newspaper was waived. Now, however, when legal notices are contemplated there appears to be deep concern on the part of the newspapers regarding transparency. The only difference --- meeting notices do not generate a revenue source for the papers, but legal notices do.

We hope Utah's lawmakers do continue to demonstrate prudent fiscal management and allow for more cost effective, online noticing. We would also encourage you to contact your Senator today to let them know you support this legislation.

Thanks to Sen. Urquhart for taking on this tough issue.