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Bill would scrap law that requires legal notices in newspapers

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A new bill pending in the Minnesota Legislature would deal a small blow to local newspapers.

At issue is an old law that requires an array legal notices – meeting notices, agendas, minutes, new ordinances, financial reports, and election information – to be printed on a page in the local newspaper of record, the St. Cloud Times reports.

The new measure would allow municipalities to scrap the costly practice and let them focus on putting notices where more people might see them – online, the Times reports. The bill is sponsored by two St. Cloud lawmakers: Republican Sen. John Pederson and DFL Rep. Zachary Dorholt

"More and more people are going online to get information, and less so going to newspapers," said Ann Lindstrom, a lobbyist with the League of Minnesota Cities. At least 43 of the state's 87 counties have approved resolutions in favor of the bill, the Times reports.

The newspaper industry objects to the bill. "This is important information, and it has some value," said Mark Anfinson, a lawyer for the Minnesota Newspaper Association (Disclosure: Anfinson also has served as counsel for BringMeTheNews).

Anfinson noted that some newspapers that print notices also put them on the newspaper websites, which often draw more viewer traffic than city and county sites.

In an editorial, the Duluth News Tribune argues that the old law helps preserve the watchdog role of Minnesota's 342 newspapers – and brings them much needed revenue.

The News Tribune asks: "Local governments already are free to post notices and proceedings on their websites, as the legislation seeks. Curiously, few do. Yet they want to take over the task entirely?"

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