BOISE — A bill that would end the requirement that many state and local government entities publish legal notifications in newspapers died in the House State Affairs Committee on Thursday.
House Bill 420 would have allowed government entities to publish legal notices for things such as tax sales and budget hearings directly online instead of in newspapers, as has been mandated for more than a century.
Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, said the bill was an effort to modernize notice requirements so they would be more accessible and reduce costs to taxpayers.
“We are living in a digital age,” Nate argued. “Almost everything we used to do in the newspaper is now available online.”
Nate’s bill was backed by government officials from counties, cities and school boards, who noted that county commissions in Ada and Bonneville Counties had paid a total of about $100,000 to newspapers to post legal advertisements.
The main opposition to the bill came from the Newspaper Association of Idaho and the Idaho Press Club.
Jeremy Pisca, a lobbyist for the the Newspaper Association, argued that publication in newspapers and through the online site idahopublicnotices.com, which Idaho newspapers created to make all such notices more accessible online, provided the most comprehensive notice possible. Ensuring such access, Pisca argued, is vital to ensuring the due process rights of local residents.
Skip Smyser, a lobbyist for the Press Club, said it was a mistake to allow taxing districts to control where and how their required notices are published, because aggressive taxing districts might take efforts to make such notices less accessible.
Nate said he didn’t intend the bill to hurt newspapers, but he cautioned the committee to take their position with a grain of salt.
“They’re not a disinterested party here,” he said.
Nate ended his pitch with a joke playing on the bill number, 420, which is a number with significance in the marijuana subculture for reasons lost to history. Saying he had promised his daughters he would end the speech with the joke, Nate said: “This is House Bill 420. It’s 420 yo, blaze it.”
That was met with a somewhat exasperated “oh, yeah” from Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone, who had been urging the committee to complete its business quickly to get on the House floor.
The bill was voted down 10-5.
Reporter Bryan Clark can be reached at 208-542-6751.