The state Senate, with 26-22 vote, gave final approval to a bill that would give select local jurisdictions the option of foregoing publication of legal notices in newspapers in favor of posting them on their own government websites.
The bill would affect Mecklenburg and Guilford counties, most of Wake, and other counties and towns. The bill now goes to the House.
Government legal ads are an important source of income for newspapers, especially small, free community papers. Newspapers print zoning notices, new ordinances, lists of delinquent taxpayers, and post them on their websites.
Sen. Martin Nesbitt, an Asheville Democrat, said the bill creates a confusing patchwork, where residents won't know where to look for government notices. More people read newspaper websites than government sites, he said.
"People are going to be less informed, and I think we're all going to be diminished because of it," said Nesbitt, the Senate minority leader.
Sen. Jim Davis, a Macon County Republican, said government payments shouldn't be part of the business model for newspapers. Local governments should have options for where to place their ads, he said.
"They know what's best for them," Davis said. "We don't in Raleigh."