Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti’s task force on government consolidation and unfunded mandates voted Wednesday to recommend allowing local governments to opt out of publishing public notices in newspapers.
The nonbinding recommendation would allow governments to post notices on their websites instead. Local governments without websites would still be required to publish them in local papers.
It passed 20-0. The task force’s report is due by the end of the year.
The idea would probably save governments a bunch of money, but some small town papers really depend on that cash.
“The task force approval of the proposal today is unfortunate,” [Josh Sharp, director of government relations for the Illinois Press Association] said. “Groups that have thoroughly studied this topic have demonstrated that local governments already disobey existing law when it comes to posting information online.”
There are about 7,000 units of local government in the state. Each one is required to print notices of public hearings in the local newspaper. State law requires other notices as well, such as with land development.
* From that study…
The Citizen Advocacy Center partnered with the Illinois Press Association to survey public bodies’ compliance with website notice requirements in the Illinois Open Meetings Act. The Illinois Open Meetings Act requires all public bodies that have a full time staff member to post and maintain three key pieces of information on their websites: 1 ) Notice of upcoming meetings, 2 ) Notice of proposed agendas and, 3 ) Approved meeting minutes. A random sampling of 20% of school districts, municipalities, counties, and townships for compliance found that local government websites continue to fail at meeting the posting requirements of the Illinois Open Meetings Act.
The results of the random sampling show that of the aggregate 756 public bodies that were surveyed, 385 have websites (51%). Of those 385 public bodies, 73% complied with posting notice, 57% complied with posting an agenda, and 48% complied with posting approved meeting minutes within the time constraints of the Act. Further, compliance with the Act’s website posting provisions for those with at least one known full-time staff member had a 77% compliance rate with posting notice, 64% with posting agendas, and 54% with posting approved meeting minutes
* The Question: Should Illinois’ 7,000 or so local governments be allowed to post official notices on their own websites, or should they continue paying to place those notices in newspapers? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.