An N.C. Senate committee Wednesday pulled a controversial bill that would have allowed the state’s biggest counties to post their legal notices online, not in newspapers.
The move came after the Senate Finance Committee debated the bill that could be a boon to taxpayers but a blow to newspapers. However, the debate centered on the best way to notify people about their government.
Local governments are required to post legal notices about such things as zonings, annexations or election changes in general circulation newspapers. The bill would have capped what governments have to pay and required newspapers to post the published notice on their websites.
An amendment would have allowed local governments in counties with populations over 150,000 to publish notices just online, not in newspapers.
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Republican Rep. Marilyn Avila of Raleigh, who sponsored the original bill, urged senators to oppose the bill. Not everybody, she argued, can go online.
“You’ve got to have a computer,” she said. “That’s still an issue, a big issue, in this state and one we have to consider.”
Les High, publisher of The News Reporter in Whiteville, said the debate was about the public’s ability to learn about government actions.
“This bill would truncate without a doubt the public’s ability to know,” High said.
But GOP Sen. Trudy Wade of Greensboro said publishing notices online would make them more widely available. She said the bill also included provisions that citizens could request email alerts about legal notices.
It’s unclear when the bill might reappear.