HB 53 was a bill designed to remove the requirement that government public notices be published in local newspapers.
The bill’s official Statement of Purpose is as follows:
Relating to public notices by governmental entities giving them the option to publish public notices or publications electronically using the government entity’s official website.
The bill text stated that government entities who are currently required to post notices in local newspapers would instead be authorized to just post the notices electronically on their websites if they so choose. All the requirements for publishing certain information as they do in a newspaper would be the same on the website of the government entity posting the notice.
After a lengthy debate on the House floor last Wednesday, the bill died on a vote of 32-38 with only Republicans voting for the measure and all Democrats and the remaining Republicans voting against the measure.
Below is an image of who voted for and against the HB 53:
Rep. Jon Weber (R-Rexburg), the bill sponsor, said on the House Floor while introducing the bill,
I realize that change isn’t easy and I can certainly understand why the print industry would want to hold on to every bit of revenue, especially as more and more readers move to different online platforms for their information and news.
Weber went on to say that state and local agencies spend over $3 million a year to put public notices in newspapers. He cited several of Idaho’s largest newspapers and said that their digital and print reach was only getting approximately 6-12 percent of their potential readers. Weber said that is below what he cited as a national average of 20%.
Rep. Randy Armstrong (R-Inkom) was the first to speak against HB 53. He said on the House Floor,
It’s the municipalities that are bringing this out. And they are trying to somehow circumvent this legal obligation they have by presenting this other product but they have an obligation and we’re making it much, much more difficult for the average citizen to find these legal notices if we vote yes.
Three other legislators stood and spoke in opposition to the bill and two other legislators spoke in favor.
Many of the concerns with those who opposed HB 53 had to do with how the information would be archived, how long it would be archived, and whether citizens would be able to find the notices.
Those who stood in favor of the bill said the technology is available now to make the notices easily accessible and that readership in newspapers is down so no one is seeing them as it is.
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Tags: HB 53, Jon Weber, Newspapers, Public Notices, Rexburg