Submitted: The Two Sides Team February 28, 2013
A Senate committee voted 10-3 to kill the last bill this legislative session to let public bodies post their official notices on a government website instead of publishing them in a local newspaper.
February 25 2013
by Michael Schuster, Capital News Service
A Senate committee voted 10-3 to kill the
last bill this legislative session to let public bodies post their
official notices on a government website instead of publishing them in a
House Bill 1823, introduced by Delegate Ronald Villanueva, R-Virginia
Beach, sought to require public bodies to post procurement notices and
bids on the electronic website of the Virginia Department of General
Services. Publishing such notices in a newspaper would have been
The legislation passed the House on a 73-25 vote on Feb. 1. The bill
then was referred to the Senate Committee on General Laws and
Technology. On Monday, the committee recommended that the measure be
passed by indefinitely, meaning it was dead for this session, which
Representatives of the Virginia Press Association and Virginia
Coalition for Open Government were some of the strongest opponents of
VPA officials said they were mostly concerned with keeping citizens
informed about government actions. Not every citizen has Internet
access, especially in rural areas of Virginia. The VPAs main goal was
to keep public notices in print-based newspapers in order to keep the
issues in the public eye. That argument has lost some of its
persuasiveness with the rise of the Internet and crash of traditional
print newspaper circulation figures.
Public notices include announcements about government budgets, public
hearings and alcohol beverage licenses. Six public notice bills were
heard in the 2013 spring session and every one of them failed.
Megan Rhyne, executive director of VCOG, was satisfied with the defeat of the public notice bills.
Im pleased that most of the General Assembly members who heard
these bills agreed that the public would be better served with public
notices remaining in newspapers, Rhyne said.
She predicted that some lawmakers will continue to push to move these public announcements to the Internet.
There will likely be more attempts because hard-pressed localities
are looking for ways to minimize costs, Rhyne said. But at the same
time, we know that a cost is not worth cutting if it means we are
informing fewer taxpayers about how their tax dollars are going to be
Public Notices Bills and their Fate
The General Assembly considered six bills to ease or remove the
requirement that public notices be published in newspapers. Here are the
proposals and what happened to them:
HB 1378, to allow localities with at least 50,000 residents to
advertise public notices on their websites or broadcast outlets instead
of in local newspapers. This bill was folded into a similar measure, HB
1373. HB 1373 then was defeated 1-10 by a subcommittee of the House
Committee on Counties, Cities, and Towns.
HB 1426, to allow the towns of Damascus and Glade Spring in southwest
Virginia to publish legal notices on their websites instead of in the
local newspapers. It was defeated 4-7 by the same subcommittee.
SB 765, an identical proposal regarding Damascus and Glade Spring. It
was defeated 3-11 by the Senate Committee on General Laws and
HB 2170, requiring local governments to publish procurement notices
on the states central electronic procurement website and making
newspaper publication option. This bill was folded into HB 1823, which
was then killed by the Senate Committee on General Laws and Technology.
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