Monday, February 1, 2010

Virginia General Assembly: No Thanks to Internet Notices

Last week, the Virginia General Assembly pushed back against the increasing use of the internet as a mechanism for mass communication.

More specifially, the House of Delegates' Committee on Counties, Cities and Towns rejected a bill (HB 586, the full text of which you can read here) which would have permitted local governments to advertise a range of public matters online and by other "non-traditional" means.

The traditional statutory mechanism for a publication is via a "newspaper of general circulation."

A broad range of matters would have been covered by the change in law, including (1) hearings about real estate tax assessments and licensing taxes, (2) advertisements for public sales of unclaimed property, and (3) notices regarding the proposed adoption of local ordinances.

HB 586 mandated that at least two of the following five alternative mechanisms be used in each case:

  1. A newspaper of general circulation in the locality, including such newspaper's online publication

  2. Any website of the locality
  3. Any public access channel operated by the locality
  4. Any automated voice or text alert systems used by the locality
  5. Posting at the local public library

The bill, which was co-sponsored by Delegate Toscano and which strikes this blogger as recognizing the public's increasing reliance on forms of communication other than just the local paper of record, was voted down in Committee, 8-3.