Arkansas lawmaker files bill on publishing legal notices

A bill intended to change how Arkansas counties and municipalities publish various legal notices was filed Thursday last week

House Bill 1399, by Rep. Frances Cavenaugh, R-Walnut Ridge, would require local jurisdictions to publish notices — including those related to elections, filling of vacancies and the amendment of ordinances — on government websites.

The bill would strike language from current law that requires municipalities and counties to publish notices in local newspapers. The publication of government notices is a significant stream of revenue for many newspapers.

The Arkansas Press Association and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette oppose the bill.

Under the bill, a county quorum court shall designate by ordinance the website which the county’s online publications will be posted.

When authorized by law, a municipality may publish on a website designated by the governing body in an ordinance. Publications shall remain on the government websites for at least three years from the date on which they were posted.

The websites must be accessible to the public at no cost and require no log-in information.

Temporary language in the bill indicates local jurisdictions would have to publish notices in their current newspaper monthly for a year directing readers to the government site.

The bill includes an effective date of Jan. 1, 2024.