The Massachusetts legislature on Tuesday, Nov. 14 will hear testimony for House Bill No. 2098, which if it makes it into law would help to level the playing field for traditional print newspapers and online ones like ours when it comes to the publishing of legal notices by municipalities.
Under the current outdated state law, cities and towns need to publish legal notices (say, that a Special Town Meeting is going to happen) in print newspapers even though such publications are no longer widely read in many communities. We’ve been fortunate in that Wellesley has paid to publish some legal notices on our site.
Nearby, Natick is exploring ways to amend its home rule charter to modernize its approach to publishing legal notices.
The hearing before the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government is slated to take place this afternoon at the State House and online (a dozen other bills are listed before H.2098). Live video is scheduled to start at 12:30pm.
The bill is being introduced by Wellesley State Rep. Alice Hanlon Peisch as well as Reps. Carmine Lawrence Gentile and Kenneth I. Gordon. We’ve been working with Rep. Peisch’s office on this issue for years, and have submitted written testimony in support of the bill.
The bill reads:
Section 13 of chapter 4 of the General Laws, as so appearing, is hereby amended by inserting at the end thereof the following paragraph:-
(e) A municipality required by a statute, ordinance, by-law or judicial order to publish a legal notice in a newspaper or newspaper of general circulation may also publish the legal notice on a community news website. For purposes of this paragraph, “community news website” shall mean a website substantially all of which is dedicated to local news coverage for the relevant municipality and surrounding municipalities that receives an average of not less than 1,500 unique visits per month. This requirement shall not apply to a municipality for which a community news website does not exist. Furthermore, this requirement shall not apply to a municipality in which a local newspaper operates with over fifty percent of residents subscribing to said local newspaper.