SALT LAKE CITY — A bill that would loosen requirements that legal notices be published in local newspapers has risen from the grave.
The bill, which failed in the House last week as HB69, reincarnated as SB145, sponsored by Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, in a Senate committee Monday.
While the new version of the bill included an amendment to address concerns raised in the House that the bill would hurt rural newspapers, newspaper publishers and the Utah Press Association still opposed the bill, expressing concerns about its impact on public transparency.
Still, the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee endorsed the bill with a 4-2 vote. It now goes to the Senate floor for consideration.
In response to concerns raised in the House chamber about its impact on small-town local newspapers, which may rely on legal notice revenue, McCay brought forward an amendment that would exclude counties of the third, fourth and fifth class from the bill.
However, counties of the first and second class, Salt Lake, Utah, Davis, Weber, Cache and Washington counties, would still no longer be required to post the legal notices in newspapers under the new version of the bill.
Instead, the bill would allow a person to serve a legal notice directly on all parties involved — either by certified mail or in person — rather than being required to post the notice in a newspaper.
"This bill we believe is a solution in search of a problem," said Brian Allfrey, executive director of the Utah Press Association.
"We believe our job as a press (association) is to make these notices available to as many people as possible," Allfrey said, arguing that loosening the requirement would limit how many eyes will see the notice, regardless the size of which counties the exemption is allowed in.
McCay argued he didn't see the need to put a legal notice in the newspaper if all parties involved are notified more directly, calling that requirement "ludicrous."
"Even worse," McCay suggested, some might use the newspaper requirement to "avoid" notifying affected parties by "putting it in the newspaper" rather than notifying parties directly.Comment on this story
Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, questioned how his "94-year-old in-laws" would see the notice if they only get the newspaper and don't have internet access. McCay said if they were directly involved in a matter, they'd be given the notice directly in person or by certified mail.
But Craig Conover, sales manager of the Daily Herald, said matters including zone changes, conditional use permits, or foreclosures may only directly affect certain parties but are still of interest to the general public, so he said the bill makes him nervous.
"That scares me because a community has the right to know what's going on in their community," Conover said.