AN ACT TO MODERNIZE PUBLICATION OF LEGAL ADVERTISEMENTS AND NOTICES; TO CREATE A PILOT PROGRAM TO AUTHORIZE CERTAIN COUNTIES TO OPT TO POST LEGAL ADVERTISEMENTS AND NOTICES ON THE COUNTY WEB SITE; AND TO AMEND PROVISIONS OF CERTAIN BENEFITS FOR NEWSPRINT EMPLOYEES.
Makes the following changes to Article 50 of GS Chapter 1 (General Provisions as to Legal Advertising).
Amends GS 1-595 (advertisement of public sales) providing that when a statute or written instrument stipulates that an advertisement of a sale must be made for any certain number of weeks, publication on the county website in accordance with GS 1-602 (enacted by this act) for the number of weeks indicated is sufficient for compliance.
Amends GS 1-596 (charges for legal advertising), providing that when a notice is required by statute to be published by a unit of government more than once and is paid for by the unit of government and the cost of publication is not paid in advance by or allowed to be recouped from private parties, the unit of government cannot be charged for the second and successive publications of that notice at a rate greater than 85% of the rate charged for the first publication in the series.
Amends GS 1-597 (regulations for newspaper publication of legal notices, advertisements, etc.), deleting the existing regulations and instead setting forth four requirements that a newspaper must meet for a required publication, legal notice, or advertisement to have full force and effect. Requires (1) the newspaper to have content that appeals to the public generally; (2) the newspaper to have more than a de minimis number of actual paid subscribers in the county or political subdivision where the publication, advertisement, or notice is required to be published; (3) the newspaper's paid subscriber distribution to not be entirely limited geographically to one community, or section, of the county or political subdivision where the publication, advertisement, or notice is required to be published; and (4) the newspaper to be available to anyone in the county or political subdivision where the publication, advertisement, or notice is required to be published who wishes to subscribe to it. Requires the newspaper to place each notice on the newspaper's website on the same day that the notice appears in the newspaper at no additional cost if the newspaper maintains a website displaying the contents of the newspaper. Requires a hyperlink to legal notices to be provided on the front page of the newspaper's website to provide access to the legal notices without charge. Requires the size and placement of legal notices on the website to comply with requirements for a printed legal notice. Requires the webpage containing legal notices to present the legal notices as the dominant subject matter of those pages. Also requires the newspaper's website to contain a search function for searching legal notices. Requires the newspaper to, without charge, provide email notification of legal notices printed and added to the website upon a person's request. Requires notification for the email registry to be available on the front page of the legal notices section of the newspaper's webpage. Clarifies that for any legal notice required to be published more than once, email notification required by this statute only applies to the first publication in the series of that notice. Establishes that any error in the placement of a governmental legal notice on a newspaper's website is considered harmless error and the requirement of proper legal notice is to be deemed met if the governmental entity placing the notice also places the notice on its own website under an ordinance adopted in accordance with GS 153A-52.2 (enacted by this act).
Makes clarifying change to the caption of GS 1-598 to now describe the statute as Sworn statement prima facie evidence of qualifications; affidavit of publication by a newspaper (currently, does not clarify publication by a newspaper). Makes organizational changes.
Enacts GS 1-602, Publication via county-maintained website, providing that in lieu of publishing in a newspaper, publication of any notice permitted or required by law to be published in a newspaper can be accomplished by contracting with a county that has adopted an ordinance under GS 153A-458 (enacted by this act) to publish the notice on the county-maintained website. Details publication fees the county may charge ranging from $0 to $450, and the distribution of fees collected, with 10% of fees collected to be used for county administrative costs, 40% to the county general fund, and 50% to the local board of education for payment of local supplements for teachers as defined by GS 115C-325.1(6). Provides for a county employee's sworn written statement to be prima facie evidence that the county placed the notice, paper, document or legal advertisement on its website for the stated period of time, and deems the sworn statement a record of the court and prima facie evidence that the county made the publication on its website for the stated period of time when filed and certified by the clerk of superior court. Clarifies that the statute does not require a county to adopt an ordinance under GS 153A-458 and publish notices on a county-maintained website.
Enacts GS 153A-52.2, Electronic notice for notices required to be published by the board, authorizing a governing board of a county to adopt an ordinance providing that any notice the board is required by law to publish or advertise, whether under GS 1-597 or GS Chapter 143, Article 8, or any other general law or local act, can by published electronically, as provided, in lieu of or in addition to the required publication or advertisement. Defines governing board to mean the body elected or appointed as the board of county commissioners, city council, or county board of elections. Clarifies that the county ordinance can cover all notices required to be published or advertised or a clearly identified category of notices. Requires the governing board to publish specific instruction regarding how to access notices published electronically under the adopted ordinance at least once a month for 12 months in a newspaper having general circulation for that jurisdiction, as provided in GS 1-597 as amended by this act. Details five requirements of any notice published under an ordinance adopted pursuant to this statute, including the requirement that notices and links to all notices on the website must be maintained on the website for at least one year after publication and must be searchable. Establishes that ordinances adopted under the statute cannot supersede any general law or local act that requires notice by mail to certain persons or classes of persons, or the posting of signs on certain property. Sets out that the ordinance adopted by the governing board can control notice given by any board appointed by the governing board, including the planning board, board of social services, and board of health.
Makes conforming changes to GS 160A-1(7), GS 153A-1(6), and GS 159-1(b)(5) to include electronic notice to the defined term publish where an ordinance has been adopted by that governing board. Makes organizational and technical changes.
Makes conforming change to amend GS 163-33 (powers and duties of county board of elections) to authorize the county board to adopt a policy in accordance with GS 153A-52.2 to provide for notices, advertisements, and publications to be given electronically.
Enacts GS 153A-458, authorizing the board of county commissioners to adopt an ordinance establishing the county website as a central location for publishing or advertising legal notices in accordance with GS 1-602, so long as three qualifications are met: (1) the county maintains its own website, with sufficient staff to maintain that website, (2) the county has sufficient staff to complete affidavits as needed for all legal notices as stated in GS 1-602(d), and (3) the county collects and remits fees as provided in GS 1-602(b) and (c).
Clarifies that the validation of any publication or notice pursuant to a previous enactment of GS 1-597 remains in effect and is not affected by any modifications of that statute enacted by this act.
Effective October 1, 2017, and applies to notices required to be published on or after that date, but does not apply to notices permitted to be pushed on a governmental website in lieu of newspaper publication pursuant to an ordinance enacted before that date.
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