House Bill 1869 proposed to move public notices printed in
newspapers to local government and school district websites. The
plan is stuck in the House Rules Committee, traditionally known as a
death sentence for legislation.
As chief sponsor, state Rep. Frank
Mautino, D-Spring Valley, said his proposal was meant to spark
"It gave both parties, both sides of the argument, a reason to
come and talk and see how they could make the notice requirements
better," Mautino said, "while still requiring and allowing for
transparency, but possibly saving some money in the process for
those that are required by the laws to report."
Local governments and school districts must print public notices
in local newspapers to announce any action using tax dollars, such
as upcoming public meetings or bids for government contracts. Under
the proposal, a note would still have to be published in a newspaper
to refer readers to a website where the public notice is posted.
But the shift could mean less money for newspapers, which have
been struggling financially in recent years. Local governments would
only have to buy and print a small reference, not the larger and
more expensive full public notice.
The Illinois Press Association, which represents roughly 480
newspapers statewide, opposed the measure. Josh Sharp, the
association's director of government relations, disagrees with the
idea to move notices from newspapers to government websites.
"That theory of how this process will work is dead," he said. "We
seem to be moving on now towards somehow finding some middle ground
in terms of reformatting some notices and maybe combining notices."
Sharp said he hopes the plan will turn into a "cleanup effort" to
change the consistency in size and formatting of public notices.
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State Rep. Michael Tryon, R-Crystal Lake, agreed the plan needs
to be worked on "at length" to address some concerns of the media
and public interest groups.
"There are lots of different types of notices that could be
reshaped, reformatted and provide better information," he said.
Tryon, a co-sponsor of the plan, said more people are turning to
the Internet for news and information.
"It shouldn't be considered as an attack on the freedom of
information at all," Tryon said. "I think that the people that are
working on it are trying to make it easier to access information."
David Morrison, deputy director of Illinois Campaign for
Political Reform, said the information about what local school
boards and local governments are planning would not disappear under
the proposed law. He points out that a lot of people are looking to
their computer for information, and the public information would be
"There would still be a notice in the newspaper," Morrison said.
"But getting it onto the Internet where Google or any Web crawler
that could get ahold of it might make it more accessible to the
Statehouse News; By DIANE S.W. LEE]