Legal Ads Could Appear on Web Only

By: Mark Fitzgerald

Pinched by budget deficits, legislatures in the Midwest are considering allowing state, county, and local governments to put their legal notices on Web sites rather than pay newspapers to publish them.

On Tuesday, the Racine County (Wis.) Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to ask for an exemption from state statutes requiring newspaper publication of public notices. The county says the exemption would save it $60,000 a year.

The League of Kansas Municipalities told a legislative committee in Topeka recently that local governments could save $3 million annually by switching to the Net. But Dan Simon, publisher of The Olathe Daily News, said forcing small towns to host secure Web sites would eat up any savings. “It’s potentially damaging to our company not only for revenue but on the human side as well,” Simon said. “We have a full-time person who would lose her job if this went through.”

In South Dakota, a legislative committee will vote soon on a proposal to give school and county boards the option of publishing their minutes on the Web instead of in newspapers. Said David Bordewyk, general manager of the South Dakota Newspaper Association, “This keeps coming back every year, and it gets tougher to fight.”

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