A Rockford lawmaker is pushing a wrongheaded bill that would let local governments publish public notices on their websites rather than in newspapers. House Bill 216 is touted as a cost-saving measure, but that doesn’t take into account the high price of limiting the public’s access to important information.
Now, people can easily view public notices from multiple public bodies by browsing through newspapers. But under this bill, people would have to go to multiple websites every day – of cities, counties, school districts and more – to stay informed.
How would the public know that notices on the websites hadn’t been changed? Printed notices are permanent but Web postings are subject to manipulation, especially when the same entity is controlling the content and the posting. Also, people might not be able to refer back to the Internet notices later; the bill requires only that the notice stay on the website until the last posting day required by law or the date of the event that’s listed.
And what about people who don’t have computers or Internet access? The bill states that the local governments have to provide printed copies to people who request them free of charge. Not only would this be inconvenient and inefficient, but how would people without computers even know there was something to request?
We urge lawmakers to oppose this bill. At some point a reasonable case might be made for putting public notices on the Internet only, but we’re not there yet.