Committee bill would undo 2021 public notices deal

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It would allow government agencies to post notices online, rather than in newspapers.

A proposed committee bill introduced this week would mostly roll back legal notices legislation approved by lawmakers last year.

Legal notices are public alerts on fiscal and other matters for cities, counties, school districts and special taxing districts. They cover infrastructure plans, changes in land use and other ordinances.

Last year’s bill removed a long-standing rule requiring notices to exclusively appear in subscription-rich newspapers and allowed notices to be published online in addition to a local newspaper.

Originally, the 2021 bill sought to remove the newspaper requirement altogether, however, lawmakers and the Florida Press Association hammered out a deal to allow governments to continue posting notices in newspapers as well as on the Florida Press Association website.

The 2022 bill (HB 7049) would largely undo those changes and allow notices to be “published on a publicly accessible website.”

Florida Press Association president Jim Fogler told the Tallahassee Democrat on Monday the new committee bill was unexpected.

“We thought we all agreed that we needed to give the marketplace time to see if our legislation worked, to bring more players to the table to create competition and protect the interest of the taxpayer but also keep the government’s activities in the public,” he said.

Lawmakers have tried for several sessions to end the newspaper publishing requirement.

Republican Rep. Randy Fine has sponsored public notices bills for the past few legislative sessions, saying the newspaper publishing requirement was essentially a handout to newspapers — legal notices provide papers with a significant amount of advertising revenue.

His proposals would have required local governments and governmental agencies to buy an ad once a year in a publication “delivered to all residents and property owners throughout the government’s jurisdiction” letting them know that they can register to receive public notices by email or snail mail.

The new bill contains a similar provision and additionally requires government agencies to “maintain a registry of names, addresses and e-mail addresses of property owners and residents who have requested in writing that they receive legally required advertisements and public notices from the governmental agency by first-class mail or e-mail.”

Staff Reports



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