COLUMBUS - The Ohio House voted nearly unanimously yesterday to reduce legal mandates on local governments when it comes to publishing public notices.
The bill, which passed with one negative vote, heads to the Senate. The upper chamber is not expected to deal with it before recessing for the summer, which could occur as early as today.
"This is a good bill that helps local governments to meet their obligations for public notice," the bill's sponsor, Rep. Kathleen Chandler (D., Kent), said.
"It provides for greater use of technology, and it will result in significant savings for local governments," she added.
An outgrowth of a task force study on the subject, the bill would require that local governments publish mandated public notices in a local newspaper of general circulation twice.
Law requires two or more notices, depending on the type of notice involved.
The first publication would be in full while the second could be abbreviated as long as it includes a link to a government Web site where the full text could be viewed.
The bill also requires newspapers to adopt a "government rate" that could be no higher than the lowest rate charged anyone else for classified advertising.
"I would consider it a middle ground," Frank Deaner, spokesman for the Ohio Newspaper Association, said. "It is a true compromise. We are conceding certain things that eliminate [column] inches and revenues and we are recognizing that local government Web sites can be used."
In exchange, the bill tightens the definition of a newspaper of general circulation, reducing the chances that local legal journals or free newspapers with little editorial content of local interest could be used to satisfy the mandate for advertising government notices of public meetings, ordinances, and other issues.
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