Legislation allowing for electronic public notice affidavits clears committee

Legislation initiated by the WNA that would allow newspapers to send public notice affidavits via email received unanimous support today from the Assembly Judiciary Committee.  

The bill contains two important updates to public notice laws in Wisconsin.

Electronic proof of publication

AB 112 allows for proof of publication affidavits to be sent electronically by the newspaper to the advertiser. Currently, newspapers are required to send a hard copy of the affidavit and a tearsheet of the notice via U.S. mail.

AB 112 and its Senate companion SB 147 would allow newspapers to create a PDF of the published public notice and send the affidavit via email.

While legal notice publication by newspapers has been a constant and reliable third-party check on the government for generations, Wisconsin’s publishers have worked to continually adapt notice requirements to ensure the broadest dissemination of public information. Since 2005, the WNA has digitally archived all notices published in Wisconsin at WisconsinPublicNotices.org. This online clearinghouse is provided at no additional cost to governmental or private entities required to publish public notices.

Karen Yancey, a former reporter for the Kewaunee County Star-News, Pete Petrie, member of the Washington Island Observer board of directors, State Rep. Joel Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay), State Rep. André Jacque (R-De Pere), Washington Island Observer Publisher Lucia Petrie and Dale Cissna, the Observer‘s financial officer, post for a group photo Thursday, April 11, 2019, at the Wisconsin State Capitol. (photo submitted)

Washington Island circumstances addressed

AB 112 also includes a provision to expand the definition of a newspaper that is eligible to print public notices in order to address the unique circumstances of Washington Island.

Current law requires a paper of record to be published at least on a weekly basis. The Washington Island Observer is an award-winning newspaper that includes robust local news coverage. However, during the winter months, the population of the Island and local activity decreases significantly due to access issues. Because of this, the Observer publishes less frequently during this time.

The limited exception to the publication requirement addresses the incredibly unique circumstances of Wisconsin’s only island municipality. 

These changes keep Wisconsin’s public notice laws up to date and while continuing the long-standing tradition of newspapers serving as a critically important and independent reporter between units of government and the taxpayers.