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Letter: Legal notice bill deserves approval

By Shaunna Johnson, President, League of Minnesota Cities

Your recent editorial about Minnesota Senate File (SF) 1152 (“Keep Legal Notices in Newspapers,” Feb. 10) raises an important question. In recognizing that technology has dramatically changed how people receive information, should city and county governments have the option of posting public notices on web sites instead of being required by the state to pay for notices published in local newspapers?

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SF 1152 is a bipartisan bill supported by the League of Minnesota Cities, the Association of Minnesota Counties and the Minnesota School Boards Association that would allow local units of government to have such an option. Current law – first established over 60 years ago – requires local governments to purchase space to publish public notices, or legal notices (like meeting minutes, hearing notices, and new ordinances, for example) in a single qualified newspaper that is designated by the city, county or school board.

If passed into law, SF 1152 would acknowledge that technology has changed in the past six decades and because local units of government rely on and value citizen participation in their government, they must utilize various forms of communication to increase access to information. In order to reach citizens, local units of government have invested heavily in their websites and other electronic communication (social media, email alert systems, etc.).

The bill does not prohibit local governments from continuing to publish notices in the local newspaper, if that remains the best option. It simply eliminates an unfunded mandate by the state, so that local governments can meet those requirements through less costly electronic means that are easily accessible to all residents. It does not change what needs to be published nor when; it just allows for more options of where the information must be published. Residents could receive information by simply looking at the city’s web site on a computer — be it at work, home, school, or at the public library.

Cities are firmly committed to providing timely and accurate information to their residents, and SF 1152 would strengthen their ability to do so.