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More Legislation to Deal a Costly Blow to Public Notices and Community Newspapers

Best place for public notices is in community newspapers.

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June 7, 2023

The internet has made life complicated by dispersing more information through an abundance of channels and platforms, but it has also given people the ability to search and find specific information about the latest high-tech product, shoes or golf club.

While the delivery of information about products can change instantly, the publishing of important information should not be compromised or relegated to the whims of the internet.

Many years ago, the Legislature identified certain public information as important enough to warrant consistent publishing in specified places, namely local newspapers.

California needs to continue with a consistent policy and high standards for public notice.

Whether the subject is education, environmental hazards, financial matters or other issues, the public needs to know where the notice will be published and how they can easily and consistently access that information in the present and the future.

Unfortunately, Assembly Bill 721 authored by Assemblymember Avelino Valencia, D- Anaheim, would change the long-established and effective public notice practice by allowing school districts to place information that will impact local residents on their website rather than following the current public noticing requirements that require publications of public notices in local newspapers.

Proponents claim that placing something on a website provides sufficient notice since everyone can access the internet and the school website.

That logic simply does not stand for the following reasons:

Newspapers facilitate public access.

The entire purpose of a “public notice” is to display information in places where the public is likely to come into notice.

Some residents do not have an internet connection, so they will not be able to access the school district website.

If local residents do not have a student in the school district, they would not be routinely visiting the school district website and would not be aware of the posting of the district budget.

Even if a resident has a student in the district, that fact does not automatically mean the resident is reviewing the school district website or is aware that the school district budget is available.

AB 721 minimizes transparency for the public.

Providing public notice allows the opportunity for the public to influence governing bodies, including school districts, allowing the public to be an active participant in a democratic society. Unlike publishing notice in a newspaper where the information will be available now and, in the future, public notices on websites can be changed at any time and information is routinely deleted.

AB 721 relies on a public noticing infrastructure that currently does not exist

AB 721 substitutes the local publication requirement for a posting on the homepage of the internet website of the school district. This is currently an ineffective notice method, as not all school websites are created equal.

A person who visits a school district website will not have any idea what to look for or where to look.

Public notice laws require a public or private entity to adhere to standards for usage, appearance, organization, maintenance, and effectiveness.

AB 721 does not include any objective standards for website publications and thus, there is no guarantee that the public will have access to the information.

Allowing public notice to be diluted is bad public policy for education and a bad precedent that will open the door for other private and public entities to propose similar legislation to avoid their notice requirements.

Public notice has a long history of protecting the public and making residents aware of important information.

We urge the Legislature to keep this policy intact and vote against AB 721.

Charles Champion is president and CEO of the California Newspaper Publishers Association.

To reach Asm. Avelino Valencia, D- Anaheim:

2400 East Katella Ave., Ste. 640
Anaheim, CA 92806
Phone: (714) 939-8469

State Capitol
P.O. Box 942849
Sacramento, CA 94249-0068
Tel: (916) 319-2068

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