SB343 – online legal ads & public notices proposed

N.C. Sen. Ralph Hise

RUTHERFORD COUNTY, N.C. — Current state law requires that local governments publish public notices in a local newspaper with general circulation in their area. However, that could change in the near future.

Sen. Ralph Hise is among the lawmakers in the N.C. General Assembly who is sponsoring legislation to require that public and other legal notices be published on the town’s or county’s website.

Here in Rutherford County the local print media who contracts to publish such legal notices has a distribution of only just over 4,000 people compared to a few years ago when it distributed over 9,000 copies. Just try to find a newspaper box downtown anymore.

Compare that 4,000 paper distribution to the approximately 16,000 per week for Rutherford Weekly and the  72,000 unique users RC Catalyst has per month. This print requirement puts the residents at a clear disadvantage to access legal notices as the county has over 60,000 residents.

The argument could be made that since the local print paper discontinued delivery to several parts of the county and charges for online access it has created a monopoly that causes RC residents to pay to read the public notices and legal ads. Additionally, the County has to pay to place ads as well.

On June 10, 2016 the County paid $5,680 to print the 10 pages of tax listings. Those same listings could be made at minimal cost, be freely accessed, and left online longer than one day.

Senate SB 343 filed last month and its House equivalent, HB 432, would require governments only to publish legal notices to their websites. By passing this bill into law, all residents would have  access through their phones, libraries, and through free access to the internet.

Counties could also post legal notices on their websites for a fee, with any money collected to be used for local teacher salary supplements or other county needs.

  • Jan. 31, 2016 the Board of Elections paid approximately $400 to place an ad in the print media.
  • On that same date $289.08 was paid for foreclosures.
  • On July 22, 2016, the Tourism Development Authority paid $37.84 to place a meeting notice.
  • Oct. 7, 2016 the Board of Elections paid $907.32 to print the notice of a General Election.

The costly notices to the consumer for estate notices, the county’s cost for public hearing notices, personnel ads, probate, guardianship, foreclosures, court notices and other advertising for the Economic Development Commission, and the libraries make this new bill for online advertising only to the public is a win-win situation for the average person as well as for the County tax dollars.

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