08.16.2011
Article

Legal Notices Under HB 633

The tides of legal notices in municipalities are changing.  The waning effectiveness of newspaper and bulletin notices is giving way to a tsunami of pressure to change to internet-based notices.  Most recently, the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs (PSAB) testified before the House Local Government Committee considering House Bill 633 – a piece of legislation that would provide for legal notices on government internet websites – addressing the need to move toward the internet for municipal notices.

If HB 633 is passed in the Senate and signed into law by Governor Corbett, municipalities would be presented with a cost-saving measure to comply with notice requirements, which currently cost upwards of $29 million dollars annually according to one Penn State Study.   Thus, proper interpretation of the law, once enacted, will prove to be an invaluable resource in saving Pennsylvania’s municipalities millions of dollars.

House Bill 633 is a part a package of incentives sponsored by local government to enable municipalities to use the internet to advertise and provide public meeting announcements.  In support of the proposed legislation, PSAB Assistant Director of Government Affairs Ron Grutza praised the legislation as a cost effective and pragmatic measure.  In an effort to highlight the benefits of the legislation, Mr. Grutza underscored the growing ineffectiveness of general publication notices.  This, in turn, lead Mr. Grutza and other proponents of the bill to the need for internet-based notices.

Currently, municipal notice provisions exist in the various local government codes, related laws, and under the Newspaper Advertising Act.  But as the PSAB argues, “in the twenty-first century things have changed dramatically.  With the advent of the internet and other technological advancements . . . the general public has made the shift to using the internet on a daily basis.”  This, in turn, has lead the PSAB to the conclusion that newspapers and bulletins are quickly becoming anachronisms of the past.

There is legal support for the Mr. Gtutza and the PSAB’s argument: 45 Pa. C.S.A. requires notice dissemination to be made through “the widest possible dissemination” of documents available.  With the Pennsylvania Bulletin and Pennsylvania Code websites receiving approximately 50,000 visits each month, proponents of the bill argue the internet is clearly the widest and farthest-reaching medium available.

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