Bill undoing last year’s public notices deal awaits House vote
Randy Fine. Image via AP.

Randy fine
'It's simply creating options for folks to get better distributions at a lower cost.'

The House took up a bill Tuesday that would roll back a deal in last year’s public notice legislation, allowing counties to publish those notices on a county website.

HB 7049, sponsored by Republican Rep. Randy Fine, would give governmental agencies the option to publish public notices on a publicly accessible website of a county the notice takes place in instead of in a print newspaper.

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. 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.

This year’s bill undoes that requirement, allowing notices to be published on “a publicly accessible website of a county.”

On the House floor Tuesday, Fine said the legislation is meant to end what he called government subsidies to newspapers through the requirement, instead giving businesses options as to where they post their public notices.

“It’s simply creating options for folks to get better distributions at a lower cost,” Fine said.

The bill also tries to take into account counties and people with limited internet access that could be impacted by the change to digital. It requires 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 mail. They will then send legally required advertisements and public notices to all those that opt in to receiving them in that way.

Additionally, the bill requires a governmental agency located in a county with a population fewer than 160,000 to first hold a public hearing to determine that its residents have sufficient access to the internet before transitioning their notices to the county website.

The bill now awaits third reading on the House floor.

Tristan Wood

Tristan Wood graduated from the University of Florida in 2021 with a degree in Journalism. A South Florida native, he has a passion for political and accountability reporting. He previously reported for Fresh Take Florida, a news service that covers the Florida Legislature and state political stories operating out of UF’s College of Journalism and Communications. You can reach Tristan at [email protected], or on Twitter @TristanDWood

One comment

  • tom palmer

    March 1, 2022 at 8:34 pm

    One of the issues is to be able to post on the municipal website in a way that is ADA accessible following a lawsuit a few years ago that forced cities and counties to take down a lot of material that is no longer visible to the public, such s planning board agendas and other things that the public doesn’t need to see anyway.

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