House approves electronic legal notices bill

state house

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, JUNE 24, 2015…..Massachusetts newspapers will be required to publish legal notices of government hearings online as well as in their traditional hard copies, under legislation that cleared the House on Wednesday.

The bill (H 1566) was unanimously approved following remarks from House Judiciary Committee Co-chair Rep. John Fernandes and Rep. Jeffrey Roy.

“What it does is it seeks to address a problem that we’ve seen as a growing issue for notice to the public of hearings that they may have an interest in. As we know, readership for newspapers is down,” said Fernandes (D-Milford).

Roy (D-Franklin) said the Electronic Publication of Legal Notices Act would bolster public access to public records, documents and hearings and “revolutionize access to public notices long left to the back pages of newsprint in small fonts and unattractive layouts.”

“For centuries these public notices only appeared in print but as we well know readership of print papers has taken a sharp decline,” said Roy, delivering his maiden floor speech well into his second term. “At the same time overall readership of newspapers has been on the rise because of the internet and online access. It’s time that public notices take part in this increased readership.”

Roy said government will not bear any additional costs under the bill, and thanked Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association for “stepping up to the plate and working with us to forge a path for success on this legislation.”

The bill directs required public notices to also be published on a statewide website maintained as a joint venture by newspaper publishers.

The legislation also prohibits the charging of fees to access public notices on newspaper websites or on the statewide website.

Copyright 2015 State House News Service

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