Archive for Wednesday, February 5, 2003

Newspapers oppose legislation to allow Internet-only publication of legal notices

February 5, 2003

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— Legislation allowing cities and counties to post legal notices solely on the Internet met opposition Tuesday from newspaper publishers, who argued that the Internet reaches a limited readership.

The Senate Elections and Local Government committee heard testimony but took no action on the measure, which would end the requirement in Kansas law that legal notices be published in newspapers.

Under current law, cities and counties designate official newspapers to carry legal notices. People directly affected by the notices receive letters in the mail and would continue to get them under the bill.

Local governments could save up to $3 million a year if newspaper publication were unnecessary, said Don Moler, a lobbyist for the League of Kansas Municipalities.

"We believe the time has come for the state to recognize a commonly used technology which has a benefit to the Kansas taxpayer and which provides a far superior method of distributing the information," Moler said.

Moler said citizens pay twice for notices published in newspapers -- the first time as taxpayers, the second as newspaper purchasers.

Mike Taylor, lobbying for the city of Wichita, said Internet posting would spare citizens from having to scour the newspaper for public notices.

But critics said putting legal notices only online would make government less open.

"Are you going to search the Internet every day to find out what the city council and county commission are planning for your life?" said John Lewis, a spokesman for the Kansas Sunshine Coalition for Open Government.

Not everyone has access to -- or enjoys using -- computers or the Internet, Lewis said. He also said some newspapers now, as a courtesy, put their legal notices online.

Publishers also said they would lose ad revenues.

The Olathe Daily News would have to eliminate a full-time staff position, publisher Dan Simon said.

Simon said his paper and others charge less than regular classified rates for legal notices, showing a commitment to informing readers.

"Of all that government aspires to do, providing public notification of its activities should be at the top of the list," Simon said.

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