House Bill 1050 gets its first hearing in the House Local Government Committee on Thursday morning. This bill needs to pass to help hold local governments accountable and maintain as much transparency as possible.
The South Dakota Newspaper Association is working with all 120 legal newspapers in the state to create and maintain a website where all legal notices in the state may be found. House Bill 1050 helps make that happen.
Local governments would like to stop printing legal notices and simply place these public notices on their own websites. A fox would also like to guard your hen house.
Without printed notices in legal newspapers or on this independent, third-party website, governmental bodies could place and edit these notices however they choose. The printed record is hard-copy proof that a notice ran. Once it is on newsprint, it can't be erased, edited or manipulated in any way. Using an independent third party for publication is a guarantee to citizens that the information was provided and published as required - both in print and on the new website HB 1050 would help create.
The arguments from lobbyists who want to remove the protection of printed notices from the public is that prices will dramatically increase. That's just not true. Written into the bill is the initial price increase between 3 and 5 percent and the annual increase in prices is held under 2 percent by that same statute.
That increase helps cover the cost of maintaining a statewide public notice website in addition to the printed notices. That new website will be managed and maintained by the South Dakota Newspaper Association. If governmental bodies want to publish on their own websites in addition to printed notices and the SDNA website, that would be a great addition to the access citizens have to important information.
The fact is everyone in the state doesn't have access to the internet. Even some who do have access don't have the skills to find legal notices buried in a governmental website. A searchable statewide website with all notices would make that process easier. Obviously, everyone can find a printed copy of a newspaper and it takes no time to find public notices once that purchase is made.
Make sure your lawmakers aren't fooled by lobbyists who distort the facts. House Bill 1050 maintains independent control of public notices while increasing access by creating a statewide website where those notices can be found.