In July, Governor Charles Baker signed into law H1566, An Act relative to electronic publication of certain legal notices. The bill was filed by Representative Jeffrey N. Roy (D-Franklin) in January 2015 and was enacted by the House and Senate last week.
The new law requires that all legal notices must now appear, not only in a newspaper’s print publication, but also on the newspaper’s website and on a statewide website that may be maintained as a repository for such notices
“As you know, print media subscriptions are at an all-time low, but readership of newspapers is at all-time high because of the availability online,” noted Roy. “This new law will capitalize on online readership and increase access to information, including public records, documents and hearing notices. It encourages civic engagement and it will revolutionize access to public notices, long left to the back pages of newsprint in small fonts and unattractive layouts.”
“Publishing legal notices online is a common sense move in our modern digital age. This new law will enhance transparency and make sure public information is accessible to residents across the Commonwealth,” said Senator Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland).
This increased access will be accomplished at no additional cost to any government entity. The Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association (MNPA), on behalf of the state’s newspapers, will bear the cost of launching, operating and maintaining this statewide website. In fact, the MNPA just recently launched the new Public Notice Massachusetts website, which can be found at masspublicnotices.org, and a number of newspapers have already started uploading notices to the site.
The new MNPA site is based on a legal-notices platform developed in Illinois and in use in a number of states, including New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. It will give users access to all public notices from all newspapers in the state. In addition, it features a smart search capability that will allow users to receive daily updates relative to legal notices that respond to user delineated search terms.
“The Illinois site has been a great success and the new MNPA site will be a welcome addition to the Massachusetts landscape,” added Roy. “Indeed, public notices inform citizens of the everyday activities of government. From government spending to developing new policies, it is important for people to be informed of actions taken by public officials that affect citizens’ everyday lives. Without public notices, citizens cannot properly and adequately make informed decisions.”
“Legal notices are an essential means by which citizens are kept informed about the actions of their state and local governments and courts,” said Robert J. Ambrogi, MNPA executive director. “The newspapers of Massachusetts are committed to ensuring the broadest-possible access to these notices, both in print and online. We appreciate the efforts of Rep. Roy to make this possible.”
The new law will take effect in 180 days.