Legal notice mandate could change

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Regional - posted Mon., May. 13, 2013

The Connecticut legislature may take up Senate Bills 902 and 1112 this week. The two bills seek to modify the legal notice mandate requiring cities and towns to publish public notice requirements. SB 902 was introduced by the Government Administration and Elections Committee. SB 1112 was introduced by the Planning and Development Committee. The aim of both bills is to lessen the costs incurred by municipalities when they publish notices in the paper.

Brooklyn First Selectman Austin Tanner said his town spends a considerable amount of money posting legal notices. “It's a major investment for the town,” Tanner said. “We'd save a lot of money if it passed.”

Kachina Walsh-Weaver of Connecticut Conference of Municipalities estimates the bill would save cities and towns between $5 million and $6 million. “We're hopeful the legislature is understanding of the fiscal impact of this mandate,” she said. “Also, as society changes and technology is improved, there is actually better public access by doing this differently.” 

Canterbury First Selectman and state Rep. Brian Sear (D-47) said it was an issue that's been coming up regularly. “It never got the legs till now,” he said. “It looks like they are going to take a fair crack at it. My feeling is that they are talking about a compromise where a notice would still go in the paper but it would simply be a heading. You'd have to go to the Town Clerk's office or the town website for more information.”

Printing legal notices gets expensive, Sear said. It can be an onerous burden on the towns. As towns try to trim budgets, save money and not lay people off, that expense gets harder to justify, especially given the availability of technology he said. Canterbury posts all notices on its website. “It's easy. We do it all the time and it's working great,” he said.

Sear said testimony from some publishers indicated that this could almost be a death knell for some of them. “They're in a real tough  spot because they get a lot of revenue from this,” he said. But the way technology is going, the availability of information and the pressure on towns for cost savings, I'm in favor of it. It's sad to see the newspapers go, but technology is changing.”

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