MACo Associate Director Les Knapp testified in support of HB 555 with amendments before the House Environmental Matters Committee on February 18. The bill, sponsored by Delegate Kirill Reznik, would allow a county or municipality to publish legal notices, such as constant yield tax rate hearings or the creation or amendment of a zoning regulation, on its website rather than publish the notice in a newspaper of general circulation. If a local government opted to publish notices online, it must also provide an option for its citizens to receive the notices directly through the mail.
Delegate Reznik argued the bill reflected changes in how people access news and information, with more people using the Internet and fewer reading newspapers. He cited a January, 2010, Pew Research Center report that found 74% of all American adults now use the Internet. Mr. Knapp concurred, presenting statistics on county website usage and arguing that the bill’s mail subscription option addressed the needs of those who do not have Internet access. Mr. Knapp also cited an October, 2009, New York Times article that found newspaper circulation was at the lowest of any time since the 1940s. Representatives from the Maryland Municipal League and the City of Gaithersburg also testified in supported of the bill.
The Maryland-Delaware-DC Press Association opposed the bill, citing the economic impact on newspapers, the inability of some in the population to access the Internet, and the archival function of newspapers. Committee members engaged in a long discussion of the bill and debated the many policy issues raised by those who testified.