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Legal notices are vital for citizens

The Virginia General Assembly completed its 2018 regular session Saturday, and once again, several state lawmakers, predictably, fought to ensure the government can hide the public business from the public.

Legal notices are required to be published in a newspaper of general circulation for quite a number of occasions. For example, anytime the City Council, Planning Commission, School Board, Board of Supervisors, Historic Landmarks Commission or Board of Zoning Appeals is holding a public hearing, that meeting must be advertised in legal notices in the newspaper ahead of the meeting.

Public notices can also advertise court proceedings, usually in civil cases like divorces, adoptions and land disputes where at least one of the parties cannot be located.

Other things like a business that has applied for an alcohol license also must be advertised in the newspaper.

However, for the last few years running, some state lawmakers have attempted to pass bills that say government entities don’t have to run these public notices in the paper. Instead, government entities would be allowed to bury them in some obscure section of their own website that nobody would ever go and look at unless they knew where to go and what they were looking for.

It’s ostensibly a cost-cutting measure, but the amount it would save is a drop in the bucket for most localities. It also just happens to have the added bonus of granting permission to the government to hide its business from a significant portion of the population.

Fortunately, none of these measures have passed in recent years, so you can continue seeing public notices in papers around the state.

But did you know you could also find public notices online, too?

If you’d like to extend your search to most of the newspapers in Virginia, there’s a convenient site called publicnoticevirginia.com, a public service made possible by the Virginia Press Association. On this site, you can choose the most popular searches or enter keywords. You can also search by locality, publication and date range.

We thank those legislators — including some of our own — who have recognized the importance of legal notices and voted accordingly.