Bills undermining newspaper notice introduced in multiple states

Public Notice Resource Center & NNA

Mar 1, 2023

Click here for PNRC’s interactive map tracking and analyzing the bills discussed in this space, as well as other public notice measures introduced in 2023. Screen shot captured 2/22/2023.

Bills have been introduced in at least 15 states allowing or requiring official notice to be published on various platforms other than local newspapers. That’s significantly more legislative activity focused on replacing newspaper notice than last year and approaches the level of the previous election off-year of 2021.

Twelve of those states are considering bills that substitute government websites for newspaper notice. A few of those bills would also allow local news websites or other types of alternative media to replace print newspapers in the notice process, and separate measures in three other states would do the same. Not surprisingly, all of these bills were introduced in states that have seen similar legislation stall in the past, and only one has even passed through a committee yet. Moreover, two of the bills — Mississippi SB-2515 (government websites or “official social media webpage”) and Virginia SB-1237 (local news websites) — are already dead.

The most draconian legislation was introduced in Hawaii and Iowa. Hawaii HB-1411 and Iowa SF-31 would both eliminate newspaper notice and make government websites the exclusive venue for notice. HB-1411 exempts some notices, so it’s not clear whether or how much newspaper notice would remain in Hawaii if it passed, and Iowa has seen similar bills in previous sessions that never made it out of committee.

[Visit here to access the PNRC’s interactive map tracking and analyzing the bills discussed in this article, as well as other public notice measures introduced in 2023. Click on a state online to read PNRC's brief descriptions of the bills in that state and to follow their legislative progress.]

Indiana and Kentucky, where legislatures have previously demonstrated a willingness to chip away at newspaper notice, both have new public notice bills in 2023. Indiana passed a law in 2021 allowing government units to publish all but the first notices requiring multiple newspaper publications on their own website. The latest proposal puts a target on the state’s remaining newspaper notice, permitting political subdivisions to post all notices on their website or “social media website or platform” in lieu of a local newspaper. Indiana HB-1438 also establishes a statewide public notice website maintained by the state library and requires government agencies to post notices there, as well. It was introduced by an Indiana House member who has sponsored failed public notice measures in several previous sessions.

Kentucky passed a law in 2020 allowing local governments in the state’s eight largest counties to post notices on their websites as an alternative to newspaper publication; that authority was expanded to the 10 largest counties in 2021. This year’s HB-71 removes the circulation limits and allows governments in every county to publish notice on their websites in lieu of local newspapers. However, both HB-71 and the earlier circulation-threshold bills require government units exercising their authority to post notices on their website to also publish an abbreviated newspaper ad informing the public of the full notice on the government website. So it’s challenging to get a clear picture of the state of government notice in Kentucky’s 10 largest counties or of the potential impact of HB-71.

In Nevada, SB-22 is the first bill ever introduced in the state that gives counties the option to publish notice on a newspaper website in lieu of the print version of the same paper. New York’s A-193 also allows newspaper websites to substitute as a public-notice alternative to print newspapers, but identical proposals in the Empire State failed to move in several previous sessions.

Connecticut has at least four bills this year allowing notices to be published on government websites in lieu of newspapers. One of those bills also allows newspaper websites to serve as an alternative to their print editions. Another authorizes municipalities to publish notices on “news Internet web sites” in lieu of newspapers. Newspapers in Connecticut faced down a similar slate of public notice legislation in 2021.

In Tennessee and Ohio, bills that move foreclosure notice out of newspapers were introduced. The measure in Tennessee requires foreclosure notices to be published on the secretary of state’s website and completely phases out the newspaper publication requirement in 2025. Tennessee is also one of the 12 states considering a bill authorizing local governments to publish notice on their own websites.

Oregon and New Mexico both have bills that would allow self-storage operators to post lien-sale notices on websites that conduct online auctions or sales. Based on past experience, we expect the self-storage industry to target two to four additional states before the end of the year.

At least two public notice bills this year have been introduced with state press association support. North Dakota HB-1197 authorizes public notice to be published in the e-edition of official newspapers in lieu of the print edition, the first bill of its kind we’ve seen. (Press associations in Minnesota and South Dakota supported bills that passed in 2022 allowing e-editions to count toward publication thresholds required for newspapers to qualify to publish print notices.) And in Wyoming, HB-164 requires notices published in print to also be posted free of charge on a newspaper’s website and the Wyoming Press Association statewide public notice site.

Visit PNRC for PNRC’s interactive map tracking and analyzing the bills discussed above, as well as other public notice measures introduced in 2023. Click on a state to read our brief descriptions of the bills in that state and to follow their legislative progress.