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Senate panel endorses plan for state public notices database

PHOENIX – A Senate committee endorsed legislation Wednesday that would create a state-run database of statutory public notices that have been published in newspapers.

The proposal, sponsored by Rep. David Stevens, R–Sierra Vista, was a strike-everything amendment to another bill pending before the Senate Government Reform Committee.

As amended, HB 2412 would require a notice to be published in the “most appropriate” newspaper and then filed in a database operated by the Arizona Department of Administration.

“The goal … is to notify as many citizens in the affected area as possible,” Stevens told the committee, which voted 4-2 in favor of the measure with one member not voting.

Arizona law calls for notices to be published in a newspaper of general circulation in English. The posting requirements vary by type – for example, some must run for four consecutive days in a daily paper or two consecutive weeks in a weekly newspaper.

Stevens said his latest proposal stems from his unsuccessful bill that would have allowed public notices to run on designated online sites rather than in newspapers. Newspaper publishers objected to both bills, saying the current system, which includes a central website listing public notices that run in print, works.

“Newspapers already provide the notice in print and online,” said Ginger Lamb, publisher of the Arizona Capitol Times.

Under Stevens’ proposal, newspapers that run public notices would be required to electronically submit them to a state database.

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Stevens said the database wouldn’t require money from the general fund. While his bill doesn’t specify how to pay for the database, he said he would offer an amendment on that.

Alan Ecker, legislative liaison for the Arizona Department of Administration, said the agency opposes the bill while the cost of and means of paying for the database remain uncertain.

Stevens said he wasn’t surprised by the criticism.

“I have to make sure if that’s even the right agency to do this,” he said after the hearing.

Rep. Russ Jones, R-Yuma, told the committee that the bill is premature and doesn’t consider the work of a committee created by a state law to make recommendations about the future of public notices. He said the group has finished meeting but hasn’t completed its report.

“[It] would actually disrupt what would be a process that needs to go through so that we don’t put … our chances at an economic recovery in some jeopardy, or pick winners and losers,” he said.

But Stevens said that the bill would offer more Arizonans can have access public notices online and in the papers important to their communities.

“I pick the winners, and that’d be the citizens of Arizona,” he said.

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Nicole Gilbert/Cronkite News Service

Rep. David Stevens, R-Sierra Vista.

Examples of public notices

Bids for construction
General public improvements
Community facility improvements
Street and highway improvements
Increase in water or sewer rates
Zoning ordinances
Award of contracts
Notice of intent to contract
Calls for bids on district bonds
Election of board directors