NORMAN — At the Capitol, in these times of austerity, lawmakers talk a lot about state budget cuts and agency consolidation. A legislative bill authored by a Norman representative may actually have the effect of growing government.
HB 2207, authored by Rep. Aaron Stiles, R-Norman, would require that legal notices be published on a court-controlled website and that agencies pay the courts to post them. The matter will be discussed today in the House Judiciary Committee.
Legal newspapers like The Transcript already publish and post to their websites notices at a fee set by statute. The proposed legislation would not eliminate the notices in community newspapers, but it would cost about $500,000 more to also post them to a government website.
Newspapers already do that, and readership on websites is strong and it continues to grow. Community newspaper audiences are bigger than they have ever been, thanks to the Internet.
Mr. Stiles efforts are well-intentioned, but lawmakers need to be careful about not taking away an important public function. Newspapers are a third-party and have no reason to manipulate or withhold notices. Giving other websites such a function could erode public confidence in the process.
HB 2207 may be the first step to moving notices out of local newspapers and into the hands of only those with computers and Internet access. Newspapers already deliver notices in print and online. Keeping them there preserves the records by a separate, non-government entity and creates a permanent record that citizens can trust. HB 2207 needs to be shelved for this legislative session.