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Rep. Warren’s measure to allow removal of public notices from newspapers put on back burner

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — A bill that would give 14 counties the option to publish public notices on county websites rather than in newspapers is being placed on the back burner, said primary sponsor state Rep. Harry Warren.

House Bill 35 was on the agenda to be discussed during the Local Government Committee meeting Tuesday. But Warren, a Republican representing House District 76 who introduced the bill in January, told the Post it was removed to allow a similar bill time to make similar changes so that both can go through the committee process together.

Despite the fact that tax revenue has increased for county government, Warren said his intent in filing the bill is to alleviate the financial burdens placed on governmental entities and offset their revenue losses amid the pandemic. It applies to Rowan, Catawba, Cabarrus, Currituck, Davidson, Forsyth, Haywood, Jackson, Montgomery, Richmond, Rockingham, Rutherford, Swain and Stanly counties.

The bill is co-sponsored by two other Republican representatives, Deputy Majority Whip Bobby Hanig and Jay Adams of Catawba County.

Since January, a few changes have been made. Warren said following a presentation from North Carolina State Board of Elections Director Karen Brinson Bell tweaks were made to reflect that elections notices would still be required to be published in newspapers to comply with current state statutes. The bill calls on the State Board of Elections to reimburse the county boards of elections for the costs in placing such notices.

Additionally, delinquent tax notices will still run in print. Warren said the revenue collected from such notices far surpass the cost of placing it.

In 2017, one month after Moore County published a list of delinquent taxpayers, their properties and amounts owed in The Pilot newspaper, the county received nearly $821,000 of the $1.37 million owed, according to a report from the newspaper.

Those same changes are expected to be made to H.B. 51, which applies to the counties of Beaufort, Bertie, Camden, Carteret, Chowan, Craven, Gates, Harnett, Hertford, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Tyrrell and Washington. That bill was introduced by Rep. Howard Penny Jr., R-53.

“We think (the bills) are a great idea, and we’re listening intently to folks’ input and suggestions,” Warren said, adding that he and Penny aren’t “in a hurry to move” the bills as others have greater priority.

Warren said each county can decide whether to publish notices directly to their websites in lieu of in newspapers, but the bill requires the publication of specific instructions as to how to access all notices published electronically at least once a month for 12 months in the local newspaper.

Data provided to the Post from Rowan County shows in 2020 the county website — rowancountync.gov — had 5.82 million page views. By contrast, web data compiled through Google Analytics shows that the Salisbury Post’s website had 16.65 million page views.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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