Bill would allow municipalities to post legal notices on websites

A bill intended to change how Arkansas counties and municipalities publish various legal notices was filed Thursday, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

House Bill 1399, by Rep. Frances Cavenaugh, R-Walnut Ridge, would require local jurisdictions to publish notices -- including those related to elections, filling of vacancies and the amendment of ordinances -- on government websites.

The bill would strike language from current law that requires municipalities and counties to publish notices in local newspapers. The publication of government notices is a significant stream of revenue for many newspapers.

The Arkansas Press Association and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette oppose the bill.

Under the bill, a county quorum court shall designate by ordinance the website which the county's online publications will be posted.

When authorized by law, a municipality may publish on a website designated by the governing body in an ordinance. Publications shall remain on the government websites for at least three years from the date on which they were posted.

The websites must be accessible to the public at no cost and require no log-in information.

Temporary language in the bill indicates local jurisdictions would have to publish notices in their current newspaper monthly for a year directing readers to the government site.

The bill includes an effective date of Jan. 1, 2024.

District 98 Representative Wade Andrews told the Camden News, " I've had a lot of people call me from both sides of this issue. I'm still studying it and looking at it.

"I've got to talk to some more people and really look at both sides"

District 2 Senator Matt Stone said, "Well, you know, there's a lot of passion on both sides. I think the debate is ongoing. I think I think when you get all the information collected, I think there could be some decisions made on what's going to be the best use of our tax dollars in the state and to serve our citizens of our state."

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