Citing lower costs and the digital age, Republican State Rep. Jerry Miller has introduced legislation to remove paid public notices from newspapers and instead post them for free on local government websites.

    The measure, House Bill 195, is opposed by the Kentucky Press 
Association, which represents 178 member newspapers, on the ground 
it would defeat the purpose of the notices to inform the general 
public about important local information and protect government 
transparency.
    Under current Ken-tucky law, government public notices must be 
published in general circulation newspapers. The notices include 
details about taxes, foreclosures, re-zoning, land taking, contract 
bids, school budgets and other government intentions and actions.
    Newspapers also post them to their websites for maximum public 
reach, said David T. Thompson, executive director of the Kentucky 
Press Associa-tion.
    In addition, he said, the association maintains a central website 
(kypublicnotice.com) for local newspaper public notices, making them 
searchable to the public by city, county, date of publication and 
newspaper title.
      "There are plenty of opportunities to say they're available in the 
digital era" as well as in print, said Thompson.
    Miller, who represents metro Louisville's 6th Legislative District, 
said towns, cities, schools and taxing districts should not be 
required to advertise public notices in newspapers at a time the 
people mostly get information on electronic devices.
      He also objects to the expense of advertising public notices in 
print. He said the Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government, on 
which he once served, spends about $430,000 annually on public 
notices, and that school board officials told him they spent more 
than $1 million.
    Miller's bill does require local governments to publish a one-time 
advertisement in the newspaper informing the public where to find the 
public notices on what government websites. Failure to do so could 
result in a small court fine if anyone objects and files a legal 
action to enforce the penalty.
      The press association's Thompson said transferring public notices 
from newspapers to local government websites could result in added 
costs for rural communities and counties with dated computer systems.
      He also said the change would result in fewer residents being 
informed about important legal and other matters. He said it would 
adversely affect seniors without Internet capabilities, lower-income 
residents, and those rural regions without good Internet service.
    But the most important objection is the threat to government 
transparency and the right of the people to know what their local 
officials are doing on the public's behalf, said Thompson.
    "We feel government agencies should not control what information 
they make available to the people," he said. "Letting them put it on 
their website when they want, where they want it and how they want it 
is wrong."
    Previous legislative efforts to remove public notice advertising 
from newspapers have failed to gain traction in the Kentucky 
Legislature. One reason is many newspapers in rural areas rely on the 
revenue from the ads.
      Miller is determined to turn the tide this year.
      "I need to save my school board and metro government money," he said. "I've got to get this bill done."

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