The Florida House State Affairs Committee approved a bill Feb. 6 that allows local governments to publish legally required notices on publicly accessible websites in place of newspapers, if that would mean money saved by the governmental body, the Miami Herald reported.  

The public notice ads involve matters such as tax raises, alterations to zoning law, government meetings and special elections, among other things.

The law now mandates that all meetings of a county, city, school board or special district at which public business is addressed be announced in a local paper and on the paper’s website. The local government has to buy the ad, at discounted rates, and a group of papers publishes the notices at floridapublicnotices.com, a free website run by the Florida Press Association, the Herald reports.

Florida Press Association President Jim Fogler encouraged the committee to not “reinvent the wheel” by having local governments replicate the site the papers created to gather the public notices.

“We spent hundreds of thousands of dollars building this website to serve Florida government, towns, municipalities, businesses and taxpayers, and it’s free for use by the public,’’ he told the Herald.

Next step for the bill is a trip to the full House for a vote. A companion bill in the Senate, SB 1340, is set for a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, the Herald said.

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