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Minnesota Opinion: Legal notices help keep the public informed

From Forum News Service

An editorial from recent Minnesota newspapers.

Minnesota Opinion: Legal notices help keep the public informed

RED WING — Governments in a free society have a duty to inform the public about the actions they take, the laws they enact and the money they spend. The mandatory publication of these decisions in newspapers helps ensure this and keep governments accountable.

Yet year after year since the advent of the Internet, a few misguided Minnesota lawmakers push hard to end this practice.

This session, however, we see signs that some key opponents of public notices are starting to understand their value.

First, in the opening week of the session, the Senate State and Local Government Committee considered a bill that would give local governments the choice of taking public notices out of newspapers and putting them only on government websites. Following 90 minutes of debate, the committee tabled it indefinitely.

Then in early March, Rep. Sondra Erickson, R- St. Paul, removed her name as author of a bill to permit school districts to transfer their public notices to district websites. Since then the bill hasn’t been referred to any committee for consideration.

And most recently, Rep. Steve Drazkowski, RMazeppa — a longtime skeptic of public notices — introduced an amendment that actually would add a public notice requirement to a bill dealing with changes to county government structure.

The primary problem with government-controlled public notification, of course, is the lack of transparency and accountability. Publishing notices is about preserving the public's right to know in a timely fashion and establishing a legal reMinnesota’s publication system has served citizens well. The law prevents any school, city, township or county from deciding on a whim — deliberately with a hidden agenda — what, where, when and how to inform the public. Remember, a printed notice, unlike one posted on a website, can’t be amended, erased or have the date changed.

State law, as it stands now, ensures the public record stays intact. We hope state lawmakers indeed are coming around to the fact that a free people have a right and need to know what’s being done in their name.

— Red Wing Republican Eagle