Bill Description: House Bill 90 would allow the date on which a legal notice is published electronically to be considered the publication date of the notice, rather than when it appears in a printed newspaper.
Does it in any way restrict public access to information related to government activity or otherwise compromise government transparency, accountability, or election integrity? Conversely, does it increase public access to information related to government activity or increase government transparency, accountability, or election integrity?
House Bill 90 would amend Section 60-106A, Idaho Code, to ease the requirements for governments to fulfill their obligation to publish legal notices.
First, the bill would change the rules for electronic publication so legal notices could be published on "a public legal notice website established by the combined efforts of Idaho newspapers" rather than on a newspaper's own website or app. Moving legal notices to a separate website which most Idahoans wouldn't even know exists would likely limit the notices' distribution and could even suggest a desire to do so.
Second, the bill would add a new provision stating, "In the case of any governmental entity required or permitted under the laws of the state of Idaho to publish legal notices or publications in a newspaper, the date of electronic publication may be used to satisfy commencement of publication requirements, as long as the required legal notice, advertisement, or publication appears in the next available edition of the printed newspaper or as otherwise required by law."
This means that the clock on the required notification period would start when a legal notice was published on a newspaper's website (or a "public legal notice website" discussed above) rather than when it's printed in a physical newspaper.
Third, the bill would add an additional new provision stating, ”If the state of Idaho or any political subdivision thereof properly submits a legal notice, advertisement, or publication to a newspaper for publishing and such governmental entity has otherwise met all statutory publication requirements and deadlines, it shall not be liable for failing to comply with publication deadlines provided by law or administrative rule in the event that a newspaper fails to correctly publish such legal notice, advertisement, or publication. The electronic publication may be used in conjunction with any publication method the governmental entity determines in good faith is feasible to meet the notice requirements.”
In other words, if a legal notice doesn't get published by a newspaper for some reason, the government is off the hook and (presumably) can move forward as if the notice had been published correctly.
The combined effect of these changes seems to be to weaken the state's laws for publishing legal notices by making things easier for the government at the cost of government transparency and accountability to the public.
STAY CONNECTED with the latest news, research and opinions from the Gem State.