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Mess with the bull…

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* Rep. Joe Sosnowski (R-Rockford) writing in the Kankakee Daily Journal

As the Illinois Legislature searches for ways to provide taxpayers relief, everything must be on the table.

That is why I have introduced House Bill 261, which will remove the state unfunded mandate requiring local units of government to publish public notices in newspapers. HB 261 will save local units of government and taxpayers’ money by allowing public notices to be placed on government websites instead of in newspapers. […]

One quick example that happens all over Illinois: Boone County spent more than $17,000 in 2013 on assessment publications for property taxpayers who had an assessed value change. That’s $17,000 to publish assessment information. Currently, a resident receives notification in the mail of changes in assessed value and Boone County has property assessment information on their website every day.

We should not financially punish local governments that are accountable and transparent to their taxpayers; therefore, why do we require local governments to pay more to put this information in the newspaper that will be published and viewable only once?

The answer is the newspapers lobby. Yes they have lobbyists in Springfield looking to get their cut of taxpayer money. The newspaper lobby claims they are increasing accountability and transparency by fighting for these types of notices to be filed in the paper. Articles written by some journalists claim my proposal will decrease government transparency. That is utterly false.

The only thing that will be affected is the profits of newspapers. It’s not the taxpayer’s responsibility to keep newspapers afloat. If we are being serious, how many of us are avidly searching their local weekly newspaper to find a fire protection district budget, school annual statement of affairs, taxpayer property ID numbers, etc.? If you miss it, it is not printed again, whereas if the notice was posted online it would be available all the time and readily available for public viewing.


posted by Rich Miller
Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 12:20 pm


  1. I agree that the publishing of notices in the classifieds is outdated, but blaming a “special interests” is becoming the new way to promote a policy. Why not just promote the policy as a change whose time has come…why the need to blame someone for the old way sticking around too long?

    Comment by Pot calling kettle Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 12:26 pm

  2. Agree 100%. I can’t remember the last time I looked at the public notice section in a newspaper. If I need information, I go online and find it. Time to end this taxpayer subsidy of the newspaper business.

    Comment by Anon Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 12:27 pm

  3. He speaks the truth, the downside is that I suspect for some newspapers the government required publication as it were is the only thing keeping them going, which I suspect prevents them from digging to hard into local government.

    Comment by OneMan Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 12:28 pm

  4. Long overdue in the Internet age. Good on Sosnowski for having the guts to call out this ridiculous newspaper welfare.

    Only the most fearful edit board tukkus smoochers will be against this.

    Isn’t there an Illinois tax credit for newsprint ink, too? The google was no help in finding it.

    Comment by Wordslinger Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 12:29 pm

  5. Classifieds are the holy grail of a lot of local papers and even a good share of Metro papers. This happens, and a lot of pubs go dark in a hurry.

    They could insist that they get posted on the digital site of a publication, which is vastly less expensive.

    I’m not arguing the bill, but it’s consequences will definitely have an effect.

    Comment by A guy Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 12:32 pm

  6. Why is a Rockford state rep having this published in a Kankakee paper?

    Comment by s Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 12:39 pm

  7. Sounds like a reasonable reduction in cost for governmental bodies, but agree that there is no need to demonize, like da gov does. The Kankakee newspaper already came out against this.

    Comment by WhyNot? Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 12:39 pm

  8. We pay a small fortune (considering the size of our district) for public notices that can be published on our web page ( and we do anyway).

    Sosnowski is a nut job but I agree with him on this one. Yikes.

    Comment by JS Mill Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 12:40 pm

  9. Has Rep. Sosnowski calculated how much local newspaper rely on government funding?

    I support the specific policy, but I strongly believe that local journalism plays an important role in society.

    I would be curious if Sosnowski’s proposal is more popular with legislators who get negative coverage because they behave in an unethical manner.

    Is Sosnowski’s goal to make local government more efficient or to reduce the money for local newspapers?

    Comment by Carl Nyberg Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 12:43 pm

  10. “We should notfinancially punish local governments that are accountable and transparent …”

    What about those local agencies that are not accountable and transparent?

    Anybody thinks that eliminating this requirement is going to lower taxes is sadly mistaken. The money will just be transferred to some other account.

    Comment by Huh? Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 12:47 pm

  11. Public government information belong on public government websites, not in private corporate newspapers.

    Comment by VanillaMan Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 12:48 pm

  12. Totally makes common sense, which is why it can’t happen.

    Comment by Not it Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 12:50 pm

  13. This is a common sense cost saving at this point. Agreed that the jab at the lobbyist is unnecessary.

    I don’t want this to push some teetering local papers off the ledge, but is it taxpayers’ responsibility to keep them going?

    Comment by Illini97 Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 12:56 pm

  14. The requirement is incredibly outdated and serves almost no one but newspapers. Frankly, it would probably be easier for interested parties to access the content on a website anyway.

    Comment by Bored at work Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 1:01 pm

  15. 100 percent agree.

    Comment by 1776 Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 1:09 pm

  16. Kudos to Rep Sosnowski. If his bill passes, Boone County will only need to find $928,000 in additional cost savings or tax hikes to make up for the 50 percent reduction in LGDF the Governor has proposed.

    Comment by GA Watcher Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 1:09 pm

  17. Not everyone has internet.

    How many legal notices would this affect that are currently required by law in a local venue?

    Our paper has 3 people left out of 21 10 years ago. This will close the door.

    The State will hire others to do the job the papers have been doing for years.

    So where is the savings?

    Comment by Griz Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 1:09 pm

  18. ===Why is a Rockford state rep having this published in a Kankakee paper?===

    Probably the closest paper to home that agreed to publish it. I doubt the Rockford Register Star would waste any ink on this one. Somebody at the Daily Journal must have accidently approved this one.

    Comment by 47th Ward Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 1:10 pm

  19. I wish you luck with that. I don’t give you much in the way of odds of success, but I will be glad to monitor the status of your bill.

    Comment by Scott H. Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 1:11 pm

  20. The State will hire others to do the job the papers have been doing for years.

    Really curious what job the paper is doing that it will require the state (or local governments) to do..

    Comment by OneMan Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 1:14 pm

  21. The attack on the newspaper lobby is 100% correct. Fifteen years ago, I worked for a up and coming politician who proposed the same thing. I received a call from the president of the Illinois Press Association. He told me in no uncertain terms that my boss would never receive a favorable editorial or endorsement again if he pushed this idea. It was that pointed.

    Comment by Anonymous Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 1:16 pm

  22. Griz….just guessing, but I’d say more people have access to the internet than subscribe to print newspapers these days?

    Comment by Finally Out (and now very glad to be) Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 1:17 pm

  23. Publish the legals at the local level. I believe it is referred to as Public Notice.

    Comment by Griz Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 1:18 pm

  24. You do not live in rural Illinois.

    Comment by Griz Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 1:19 pm

  25. Griz,

    Our municipal government already posts this info on the website. Striking the requirement to publish in the paper will in now way impose added work or cost. The only difference is that no one will have to email the info to the paper and follow it up with a check.

    Also, no one is saying you can’t put notices in papers, but it would no longer be a legal requirement. If newspapers are best for your community, keep doing it.

    Comment by Illini97 Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 1:21 pm

  26. Government subsidizes all sorts of private endeavors. Ever heard of a TIF? And that’s just the tif, so to speak, of the iceberg.

    When operated properly (and that’s key), newspapers play a vital role in society by informing and educating people. I don’t have a problem with government “subsidizing” them in this way. I’d way rather have tax dollars going to newspapers than political insiders who profit from insider deals, which newspapers, when operated properly, help expose, or even prevent in the first place. Of course, this all goes out the window if a newspaper is not a good one, and there are plenty of bad newspapers around, probably more bad newspapers than good ones. But we would all be worse off if there were no newspapers at all. I don’t think that’s a debatable point.

    And it may surprise folks, but I know people who do read legal notices in newspapers, every day and word for word. There are not many of them, sure. But they pay taxes, too.

    Comment by Subsidies Are A Way Of Life Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 1:28 pm

  27. Great idea. In the cases of those who have limited access to the internet, there always is the public library.

    Lets look for more of these cost savers.

    Comment by plutocrat03 Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 1:31 pm

  28. If you are that interested in public meetings then check the internet frequently. We live in the digital age now. Have for some time now. The internet is the way the world communicates. Get on the train or get left behind.

    Comment by Demoralized Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 1:32 pm

  29. I tend to agree with Pot calling kettle - demonizing degrades what appears to be a sound position on an issue. I do think it would be helpful to keep a daily printed record of which units have posted public records and the url address of said posting. Many poor, older, and often rural members of the community use printed circulations to keep track of county and municipal government and completely shifting them to “google” seems a bit harsh. Scale it back - yes, but understand the limitations of technology as well I say.

    Comment by Long time listener Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 1:35 pm

  30. Well said GA Watcher.

    Comment by Norseman Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 1:35 pm

  31. This is absolutely a great idea. LG’s can post this on their website and/ or publish notification that the information is available . If they choose to continue to publish notices that most people never read in the mewspaper, so be it at their expense.

    Comment by ToughGuy Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 1:37 pm

  32. I think a lot of people are missing the point that the General Assembly, probably 5 years ago, mandated that newspapers (at their own expense) maintain a centralized website for all public notices.

    They do that, you can already search for public notices online. All in one place.

    Sosnowki’s bill would eliminate that website and push notices to individual local government websites - all 6,000 or more of them.

    Comment by JPK 779 Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 1:39 pm

  33. I see both sides to the proposal. That said, if this passes, local governments should no longer force property owners to pay for ads and mailings notifying the public of proposed zoning changes, and instead, the notices should only be placed on the internet. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

    Comment by Just Observing Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 1:41 pm

  34. Maybe this is already a done deal.

    Comment by Griz Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 1:44 pm

  35. Rep. Sosnowski is 100% correct on this. Editorials against this should be treated as blackmail unless they have a really good public policy reason.

    Comment by Ahoy! Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 1:54 pm

  36. JPK 779, this is interesting information. However, the cost and effectiveness could still be an issue in my book.

    I see the impressive site through your link, but how is an ordinary taxpayer going to find it. Just out of curiosity I tried to find a path to it from the State website and the Sangamon County website. I didn’t find one on either site. While centralization is fine, when I have a question about property taxes I go to my county website.

    Comment by Norseman Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 1:56 pm

  37. Griz, do you write a lot of editorials about other private, for-profit businesses that the state should subsidize to keep from going out of business?

    Comment by Wordslinger Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 1:58 pm

  38. I have elderly friends who always read public notices but they don’t have Internet access. Also, if you check your local library you’ll see that many of our younger neighbors don’t have it, either.

    Not only that, but many local governments don’t have websites, townships especially. What would they do? And of the local governments that do have websites, many are horrible when it comes to accessibility and/or navigation, so are we going to give the AG more money to enforce the posting requirements?

    And are we really saying we want to visit six or seven websites a week to keep tabs on local government?

    Comment by yinn Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 2:08 pm

  39. Some of you have convinced me.

    I don’t think government-subsidized newspapers are enough, though. Bring back the town crier system, where some loudmouth walks up and down the street yelling the news.

    Comment by Wordslinger Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 2:12 pm

  40. Wordslinger, think of those town crier pensions though!

    Comment by Precinct Captain Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 2:32 pm

  41. +And are we really saying we want to visit six or seven websites a week to keep tabs on local government? +

    In a word, Yes. This is what we do for some FOIA. If it is on our webpage you have to go there to get it. The democratic process is an active process. One should not expect it to be laid at your feet. Our savings in the last year alone would have been $7,000. That is the lease cost on one bus. Our role is not to provide funding for news papers but an effective and efficient process.

    The same people that complain about taxes are apparently the ones who do not have a problem with added expense that are unnecessary for most people just not them.

    Comment by JS Mill Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 2:53 pm

  42. And what’s the IL sales tax rate on newspapers?


    – MrJM

    Comment by MrJM Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 2:54 pm

  43. Great idea whose time has come!!!!!

    Comment by Just a Citizen Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 3:06 pm

  44. can I be for both? shortened versions in the paper and the full version on line.

    it may be newspaper welfare, but the more that we take print out of the everyday lives, boxes, corners of people, the less connected we become and the more controlled by one outlet, probably the Chicago Tribune. more outlets that exist create chances for differing opinions. besides, the point is for people to kind of run into the information. if we just put it on the web site of the government, that requires everyone to keep checking the government website. and while some may, and should, do that, it is not regular people bumping into information that maybe we want more people to have. kind of like how zoning changes are frequently posted on signs of the place asking for the zoning change. we want more people to know. just the government website is less transparent.

    the both and answer is to do both the website and the newspaper, in shortened form.

    Comment by Amalia Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 3:07 pm

  45. What some commenters seem to be missing is that not all public notices are about public meetings. Some are directed at specific individuals and directly affect the rights of those individuals, parental rights, for example, in situations where the person would have no way of knowing that there is any reason for him to check an agency website.

    Comment by JoanP Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 3:07 pm

  46. Freedom of the press protects the right to obtain and publish information or opinions without government censorship or fear of punishment.

    Censorship occurs when the government examines publications and productions and prohibits the use of material it finds offensive.

    The Press and the People are the 4th leg of Government.

    Comment by Griz Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 3:22 pm

  47. And what about the carbon footprint? Literally millions of pages of newsprint, 99.999% of which are never read by anyone.

    Waste in every sense of the word.

    Comment by gopower Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 3:23 pm

  48. This makes a lot of sense for property assessment information. For other things there may be some value in having a notice of record not controlled by a government and widely disseminated rather than requiring it be sought out. How knows, one day the Vogan Fleet may show up.

    Comment by Bigtwich Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 3:25 pm

  49. Griz:

    What does that have to do with the topic at hand?

    Comment by Demoralized Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 3:27 pm

  50. If a local paper’s survival is based upon these revenues, then it is only a matter of time before they close shop anyway. Its sad, very sad, but I don’t subscribe to my local paper so who I am to complain.

    Comment by Lil Squeezy Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 3:34 pm

  51. “It’s not the taxpayer’s responsibility to keep newspapers afloat.”

    Hope that applies to profitable nuclear plant operators too.

    Comment by Chicago Cynic Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 3:49 pm

  52. What many fail to recognize is how incredibly prescriptive the publication laws are. In example, the legals must be set in no less than 11-12 pt text. I had unilaterally newspapers set it in 16pt text to take advantage of the extra column inches added to the ad. In addition, most legals are at rates far above the normal commercial rates. This has been an all-too-legal boondoggle for much too long!

    Comment by Yesterday's Chairman Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 3:58 pm

  53. What about the cost to election authorities to publish election notices, specimen ballots, and other election related information. County Treasurer have costs related to property tax payers who fail to pay their tax bills.

    Comment by you're right Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 3:59 pm

  54. I can see a distinct difference between court-ordered legal notices such as bankruptcy, foreclosure notices, etc. versus local governmental budget ordinances, treasurer reports and the like. Maybe the Illinois Treasurer/Comptroller (combine them please) should expand its already existing portal for local governmental financial data.

    Comment by Jake From Elwood Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 4:19 pm

  55. Why should the public be notified of potential governmental action? After all, the government knows what is best for you. So just shut up and let the government do as it pleases, with no notice or opportunity for the citizen to be heard.

    Comment by Tired of nonsense Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 4:21 pm

  56. === Maybe the Illinois Treasurer/Comptroller (combine them please) should expand its already existing portal for local governmental financial data. ====

    I’m sure they would, if Topinka hadn’t done it already.

    It’s called The Warehouse.

    Comment by Yellow Dog Democrat Tuesday, Mar 3, 15 @ 4:27 pm

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