NOTICEKeep Public Notices Public – The Interior Journal

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Click here to see proposed HB524

If a Kentucky legislator gets his way, many Kentuckyans could lose access to public information related to the activities of their local governing bodies.

Last Thursday, Feb. 17, State Rep. Ryan Dotson, R-Winchester, introduced what would become Bill 524, aimed at eliminating the requirement for public notices in newspapers.

Currently, any new ordinance passed by a city council or tax court must be published in that community’s journal of records. In the event that two or more newspapers are published in that community, the newspaper with the largest paid circulation is considered the official newspaper.

It is not a new law. Previously proposed versions have been filed that would have limited publication requirements for cities or counties with populations of 90,000. A later version lowered that number to 80,000. Dotson’s proposed bill now includes all communities in Kentucky, regardless of size.

In addition to ordinances, items such as zoning changes, tax increases, and other major decisions made by a governing body that require the public to be informed before the body takes action are considered notices. public. Notices are published after the first reading of the ordinance by the governing body, allowing the public to be informed and possibly voice any concerns before the second and final reading which would pass the ordinance.

If HB 524 becomes law, this information will no longer be required to be published in print. Instead, governing bodies could simply publish a one-time classified ad in the newspaper informing citizens that information about a certain action is available on a website operated by the government agency or even a contracted third party. From there, it would be up to the readers to visit the website and find the information themselves.

This bill has multiple problems that prove that it is not in the best interest of the public.

The government has a fundamental responsibility to adequately inform the public of its actions. This responsibility cannot be abandoned in favor of cost savings which may prove elusive in light of a decrease in effective public notice. In addition, entrusting the responsibility for notifying the public to government officials has the potential for abuse. For example, it may create the temptation to alter or manipulate the timing of public notices.

Another problem is the limited availability of Internet access for many Kentuckians. Even in 2022, there are homes in every region of the state that lack reliable internet access, and HB 524 would limit their access to important information.

The publication of public notices in newspapers is much more reliable than on the Internet. Newspapers serve as the authentic record of publication and provide sworn affidavits that the information was published, as well as physical evidence of the actual publication of the newspaper. The stability of local newspapers as a medium for public announcements is indisputable. The Internet, on the other hand, remains very vulnerable and unstable. Power surges, computer problems and downed servers can prevent access at any time.

This bill would suppress the information of many citizens, but also place an additional burden on communities to have someone post the information on their sites. Large communities may have a person on staff to handle tasks related to updating their websites, but for small communities this is more of a problem than a solution. And remember, it must be done in a timely manner. It is not uncommon to visit the websites of organizations in some small communities just to find outdated information. In a community where I lived a few years ago, I discovered that a local website displayed the names of two people who no longer served on a local council and another who was on the membership list had passed away . Are these the sources you want to rely on for important information about local government activity?

Citizens of any community should be able to easily find information about what is going on with their local government, and newspapers are the best way to get that information to them.

Please contact your state legislators in Frankfurt by calling (800) 372-7181 and letting them know where you stand on this issue.

Jeff Moreland is regional editor of Bluegrass Newsmedia and former board member of the Kentucky Press Association.

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