Legal notices to remain in newspapers after bills die
DENVER — Two similar measures that would have ended the requirement that counties publish public notices in community newspapers died in different committees Wednesday.
After about a half hour of testimony, Rep. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, asked the House Local Government Committee to kill his own bill, which would have allowed counties to publish financial information online rather than in a local newspaper.
Scott said that while the time will come when the idea will be widely embraced, the bill had problems he needed to work on.
Meanwhile, Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, asked the Senate State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee to approve his measure, which would have freed all local governments from the print publication requirement.
The committee killed it on a 3-2 party-line vote, with Democrats opposing it.
“The fact is the practice is counter-principle to the original intent … to try to get public notices out to the public,” Lambert told the committee. “Nowadays, there are a lot better ways of doing that through databases to get more transparency.”
Scott and Lambert said counties could save thousands of dollars by not having to publish the notices, but several newspaper editors who testified against the bills said there’s more to consider.
Robert Moore, executive editor of the Fort Collins Coloradoan and the incoming president of the Colorado Press Association, said allowing government to disclose its business without scrutiny from private-sector watchdogs opens the door to less transparency, not more.
“The bill allows a government to post legal notices on its own website if it determines that the website provides, quote, a higher level of public access,” he said. “The bill is silent on the criteria that would be used to make this determination, essentially allowing local governments to draft their own criteria and just magically declare that whatever they want to do somehow grants better public access.”