by Hunter Dawkins
Two bills authored by members of the Coastal Delegation are being proposed this legislative session that would allow government entities to move public notices (legals) out of print and onto government-maintained websites.
The first bill (SB 2606), which was written by Mississippi Gulf Coast Senator Scott Delano (Biloxi) that will authorize to publish notices on a free, publicly accessible, official government website. This legislation has passed the State Senate Technology Committee and will be heard at 9am Friday morning by the Accountability, Efficiency, Transparency Committee.
Next the House Bill 1369 was authored by Representative Greg Haney from Gulfport and co-sponsored by Randall Patterson of Biloxi, which states this legislation provide alternative method for publishing or advertising certain notices. The bill was referred to the Municipalities Committee and has yet to take any action.
In review of the facts about public notices, a 2016 survey of Mississippi households showed that 7-in-10 of Mississippians read their local newspaper and more than half of all Mississippians recall reading public notices published in their local newspaper.
Additionally, Mississippi newspapers have developed a website (mspublicnotices.org) that regularly posts Mississippi public notices. Readership of those same notices in newspapers dwarfed readership on the web by a ratio of 71 to 1.
Smart Search features are available for individuals interested in tracking notices by county or category. A Smart Search subscription allows you to receive the information daily via email at no charge.
Mississippi newspapers, which have been the trusted publisher of public notice advertisements for over a century, launched this service to improve public access to public notices and foster more accountability and transparency in government.
The service is provided at no charge to government agencies or the public. While participation is not mandatory by state law, MPA makes a good faith effort to promote and maintain support from its 100 member newspapers.
Public notice advertising rates in Mississippi have been consistent since 1998, the year of the last increase. Legal ads are a tiny portion of any government entity’s overall budget and a worthy investment to ensure accessibility and independence of public notice. Print notices are verifiable through affidavits and perpetually archived in protection from possible digital tampering.
If you would like to contact your legislators about these matters or other legislation, there contact information can be found on legislature.ms.gov or (601)359-3114.