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Public Notice Law

The purpose of public notice is to inform the public about government activities, thus enabling citizens to make well-informed decisions. Public notices provide the opportunity for citizens to influence governing bodies and to be active participants in a democratic society.

Public notice laws exist to ensure transparency in government and easy access to information. Before a newspaper is designated by the State to publish public notices, the newspaper must demonstrate that it has a paid circulation, a minimum percentage of locally-generated news content, a local publishing address, and a continuous publishing history. The latter requirement ensures stability in the venue for public notices, so that the public will have a reliable place to search for public notices.

There are four elements that mark a valid public notice:

  1. The notice must be published from an independent party, typically in a local newspaper. An independent and neutral third party has an economic and civic interest in ensuring that the notice delivery requirements are followed.
  2. A public notice must be archived in a secure and publicly available format. Print newspapers have always fulfilled this element because a public notice published in a newspaper is easily archived, and can be archived in several different places, formats, and without wait. Newspapers are usually archived by the publishing company and by libraries. These archiving venues provide the public with the option to retrieve the notices for years after date of publication.
  3. A public notice must be capable of being accessed by all segments of society.
  4. The public must be able to verify that the public notice was not altered once published. In a newspaper notice, an affidavit is provided by the publisher, which can be used in an evidentiary proceeding to demonstrate that a true copy was published as well as the exact wording that was used. Further, the printed word provides a permanent, unalterable public record.

Public notices that provide information about government activities are designed to alert the public of government activities, and provide an opportunity for the public to comment on such activities. Some of these public notices include publication of government budgets, notices of public hearings, and notices of intentions to change government run or managed programs.

Public notices that contain government requests for bids for services, purchases and other business-related activities are designed to provide businesses with the opportunity to participate in the government procurement process.

Public notice laws also require corporations and other business entities to publish their intention to do business in an area, which provides the public with the opportunity to either support or oppose such intentions. Public notice is also required when a business or corporation dissolves. This serves to protect creditors and consumers from fraudulent practices.

Public notice laws also provide notice of unclaimed property.

The final type of public notice consists of notices by non-governmental entities which use public powers or institutions in some way, such as court notices, probate, etc.

Through the publishing of financial reports, citizens can see if tax dollars are being wasted. With notices of incorporation and dissolution, citizens can be aware of who is doing business in their community and ensure that businesses are not abusing limited liability incorporations to avoid the payment of debts.

Further, through public notices, citizens are given the opportunity to make their voices heard in public hearings and meetings. Citizens use public notices and public hearings to object to changes in their community that could depress property values or alter the fabric of the area. Similarly, citizens have been able to participate in changes that enhance their communities, such as the construction of parks and other improvements. Allowing the public to influence the governing bodies of their local communities is crucial to the functioning of democratic society.