A plan to save local governments money by letting them post official notices online instead of paying to have them published in newspapers was nixed by lawmakers who said it would be unfair to senior citizens.
Members of the House Government Operations and Elections Committee voted April 27 to remove the provisions from HF705. Sponsored by Rep. Roger Crawford (R-Mora), the bill would provide relief from state mandates for cities, counties and other local government units.
As introduced, the bill contained provisions that would have lifted requirements that official public notices be published in a local newspaper, generally at a cost to the local unit of government. Under the proposal, they could have published them on their own websites instead.
Supporters say current laws are a burden to cash-strapped local governments. Anoka County Board Chair Rhonda Sivarajah said the change would save taxpayers $85,000 annually in her county alone. She also said posting the notices online would make them accessible to a larger number of residents.
“Currently, our official newspaper has a circulation of 8,900 households. We have over 335,000 people that live in Anoka County. They don’t have access to the county-designated newspaper,” she said.
Opponents said it would hurt small newspapers and people who don’t use the Internet. Sandra Naren, a lobbyist for the Minnesota Newspaper Association, said most people tend to get their official notices from printed newspapers rather than online. She said senior citizens, in particular, tend to get their news from printed publications.
Rep. Dean Urdahl (R-Grove City) echoed those concerns, saying he’s heard from seniors in his district that they don’t want to use computers to get their information.
“The time is coming where we may not use paper for hardly anything, but I’m not sure that time is here yet,” Urdahl said.
Rep. Tim O'Driscoll (R-Sartell) successfully amended the bill to remove the provisions. The committee approved the bill and sent it to the House Judiciary Policy and Finance Committee. Sen. Benjamin Kruse (R-Brooklyn Park) sponsors the companion, SF1260, which awaits action by the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee.