NJ Assembly Backs Off Public Notice Change

There is a rare bit of holiday cheer for newspaper publishers as the year winds down. The New Jersey Assembly has scrapped a proposed law that would have allowed the government to stop publishing legal notices in newspapers, threatening to strip them of a major source of revenue – at least for now.

The bill, which had the support of Governor Chris Christie, would have canceled the requirement to publish legal notices about public business in newspapers and permitted city, county and state governments to post them on their own Web sites instead.

Public notices typically concern things like public hearings, sheriff’s auctions, unclaimed property, and the tendering of public contracts.

According to some estimates, the move to end publishing of legal notices in newspapers would have cost them around $20 million per year – a major blow when newspapers’ other sources of print advertising revenue are already under pressure.

Critics of the proposed law claimed the governor was supporting it as retaliation against the state’s newspapers, many of which were critical of his support for Donald Trump, as well as the involvement of several aides in the “Bridgegate” scandal.

According to the New Jersey Press Association, the loss of revenues from public notices would force newspapers to cut 200 to 300 jobs in the state.

New Jersey lawmakers who supported the bill staged a last-ditch effort on Monday to gather enough votes in the last voting session of the year, but withdrew the bill from consideration after it appeared likely to be defeated.

The withdrawal represents a victory for newspaper publishers, at least temporarily.

However, by pulling the bill from this year’s voting session, its supporters keep it alive for future legislative sessions. Many observers predict that Christie’s allies in the Assembly will attempt to resurrect the law in 2017.

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