MADISON – WNA Executive Director Beth Bennett testified today in front of the Senate Committee on Government Operations, Technology and Consumer Protection in support of SB 147.
The bill would allow newspapers to send public notice affidavits via email and would provide a limited exception to the public notice eligibility requirements in order to address the unique circumstances of Wisconsin’s only island municipality. Its Assembly companion AB 112 received unanimous support last month from the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
Bennett’s testimony is as follows:
I want to thank Chairman Stroebel for hearing Senate Bill 147 today and I urge support for this commonsense measure. I also want to thank Senator Jacque for sponsoring this bill and working with the Wisconsin Newspaper Association and our member the Washington Island Observer toward passage of SB 147.
SB 147 has two important updates to public notice laws in Wisconsin. The first expands the definition of a newspaper eligible to print public notices 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. It makes sense that the Observer would reduce its publication schedule during this time. It also makes sense to create this limited exception to the publication requirement to accommodate the incredibly unique circumstances of Wisconsin’s only island municipality.
SB 147 also allows for affidavits for proof of publication to be sent electronically. Currently, newspapers are required to send the affidavits — which includes an actual copy of a legal notice that is clipped from the paper — via U.S. mail. SB 147 will allow newspapers to create a PDF of the clipping and send the affidavit via email.
Both changes keep Wisconsin’s public notice laws up to date and continues newspapers’ long-standing tradition of serving as a critically important independent reporter between units of government and the taxpayers.
While notice publication in newspapers has been a constant and reliable third-party check on governmental actors for generations, Wisconsin’s publishers have worked to continually adapt public notice requirements to ensure the broadest dissemination of public information. Since 2005, the WNA has been digitally archiving all public notices published in Wisconsin, making them publicly available online at WisconsinPublicNotices.org. This online clearinghouse of notices is offered at no additional cost to governmental and private entities required to publish public notices.
The Wisconsin Newspaper Association is committed to providing the necessary verification, certification and archiving that ensures individuals and taxpayers rights are protected and preserved. On behalf of the 221 WNA member newspapers, I would again like to thank Rep. Kitchens for authoring this bill and I urge you to support SB 147.