A bill that would allow New Jersey municipalities to publish legal notices on their websites instead of print newspapers is on hold in the state legislature after a strong editorial push from the print industry, however Brick officials say they would support the measure if it is considered in the future.
The bipartisan bill would save tens of millions of taxpayer dollars per year, according to Gov. Chris Christie. As it currently stands, municipalities in New Jersey must publish legal notices – generally announcements on ordinances, bonding measures, sheriff’s sales and construction projects – in print newspapers at a set rate. Publishing the notices on websites, including digital-only news sites, does not fill the legal requirement.
“To me, if there’s a way to save taxpayers’ money, I’m for it,” said Brick Mayor John Ducey. “The less the town has to spend on anything, the better it is for the taxpayer.”
Joanne Bergin, Business Administrator, said Brick spent $32,000 in 2016 on legal advertising in the Asbury Park Press, and $55,000 the previous year.
The print industry strongly opposed the bill, running vicious editorials and lobbying lawmakers heavily through the New Jersey Press Association, an industry group. The industry said requiring notices in print allows for governmental transparency, and claimed Christie sought the bill’s passage as “revenge” for unfavorable press. Print newspapers, many struggling financially, would have shed about 200 to 300 jobs if the revenue stream from the ads dried up.
The 2016 legislative session in New Jersey is over, but leaders in the Democrat-led chambers have said the bill will be a priority once the 2017 session begins.