Debate Stirred By Idea of Moving Legal Ads from Newspapers to Websites

Debate Stirred By Idea of Moving Legal Ads from Newspapers to Websites



Lawmakers in Pennsylvania are considering measures that could revolutionize the way people get official information concerning government actions. Their plan has ignited a debate over whether online-only advertisement of public notices would be less costly or easier for taxpayers.

Although no state has done so, a number of legislators are pushing to transfer legal and mandated advertisements from newspapers to government websites. This change will definitely have an impact on the publications and its readers, as well as those who are paying for the service.

Testimonies on House Bill 633 are scheduled to be heard by the House Local Government Committee on May 19 and voting on the bill may be made as early as May 24. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Tom Creighton, a Republican from Lancaster.

Similar bills were also filed in the Senate, namely, Senate Bills 804 and 805, which were sponsored by Sen. Robert Robbins, a Republican from Mercer, are now pending before the Senate Local Government Committee.

In reaction to the proposed measures, Angela Zaydon, the director of legal and public policy for the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, said, “Local government is always touting this as a cost-saving measure, but it will actually cost millions in taxpayer dollars for the government to take the function over.” She cited personnel, litigation costs and information technological issues.

Public notices from all levels of government and businesses, as well as individuals, are usually displayed in the classified advertising sections of various newspapers. According to Zaydon, moving these notices online could mean that a taxpayer would have to “go to 3,000 websites or more to see what’s going on across the state.”