Since we hope for a good start with this blog about municipal law developments, let’s start with what appears to be a good start in the Legislature. As more people get their news and information from the Web as opposed to newspapers, it would appear to make sense to move more public information onto the Web. A bill introduced at this morning’s Sentate session, S.F. No. 761, appears to get us most of the way there. The bill strips two key passages out of Minn. Stat 331A.03, which had more or less been the only statute authorizing a Web alternative. First, the references limiting the alternative to contract-bidding notices is removed, opening the alternatives to all “information otherwise required to be published in a newspaper.” The bill takes the next step and removes any requirement to maintain simultaneous publication beyond the minimum transition period, which is now shortened to two months.
As the title says, this is a good start. The question remaining is how broad will everyone understand the change to publishing “information” to be? Some conforming changes could be made to M.S. 412.191 to make the Web option clearer. In ordinances, particularly, switching to Web publication would eliminate ordinance summaries, which are only necessary because of publication expense (and space contraints). A change to the evidentiary rule about ordinances is also a good idea – even though it doesn’t directly reference newspaper publication, the language assumes either newspaper publication or regular codification. On their own, cities have crossed the tipping point for putting ordinances online. Our public-notice statutes should now be changed to recognize that.