Bill Would Pull Public Notices from Newspapers

Opponents say move would hurt openness, hurt newspaper ad revenue

A bill pending in Illinois' General Assembly would let cash-strapped governments post public notices online instead of paying to run them in print.

While the shift has been considered in other states, Illinois would be the first in the nation to drop the requirement that notices run in local newspapers, according to newspaper associations.

Backers say the bill -- HB 1869 -- would save money if governments could use the Internet to announce public meetings, post meeting agendas and minutes, or document contract bids. More and more people get their news online anyway, they argue.

Opponents say the move would not only make it harder for some people to track what their governments are doing, but would eliminate a source of ad money that is vital to many community newspapers.

The amount of savings from the legislation is hard to ascertain, and the bill's sponsor says a compromise would be needed before it could pass.

Several other states have considered similar legislation. There currently are bills in the New Jersey and Pennsylvania that would allow government units to post online. Michigan backed off of a bill last year that would have done the same.

Several groups, including the AARP, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and newspaper associations, have voiced concern about the bill harming people who lack Internet access or don't feel comfortable using computers.

Pew Research Center data show that a third of Americans do not have Internet access. The U.S. Census Bureau said 46 percent of blacks and 40 percent of Hispanics lack home Internet access.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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