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House of Representatives
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: November 30, 2021 01:36 PM
From: Representative Brett R. Miller
To: All House members
Subject: Protecting Local Governments Against a Newspaper's Failure to Advertise
In the near future, I will introduce legislation that considers a municipality that has properly advertised a legal notice in a newspaper and simultaneously on their municipal website to have met the legal requirements for proper public notice in the event the newspaper fails to publish the public notice. 

Municipalities are required by law to advertise public meetings and special notices for ordinances, loan commitment letters, land development applications, etc.  Multiple negative consequences arise when a municipality fails to advertise, among them are the inability of a governing body to take action to avoid default on a loan arrangement thus subjecting the municipality to hefty penalties or a bad loan deal, or the inability to vote to disapprove a land development application due to the clock running out and the application being considered deemed approved.   

But what happens if the governing body does advertise properly and submits an advertisement to a newspaper of general circulation but the newspaper fails to print the advertisement?  Should the municipality be held liable for the financial and/or legal fallout from the newspaper's failure to properly print their advertisement?  Should they be liable for the time and expense of the failure of the newspaper to advertise as the municipality attempts to reclaim their lost finances and/or rightful decision-making authority? 

This is the situation that occurred in my district.  A municipality properly advertised the borrowing of money and a forthcoming land development application decision.  The newspaper failed to properly print the advertisement leaving the municipality on the hook for both negative consequences.  Since this scenario can occur anywhere in Pennsylvania, all municipalities should have protection against the liability that results from a newspaper's failure to advertise. 

My legislation would allow a municipality that properly submits an advertisement to a newspaper of general circulation and simultaneously also posts the same on their municipal website to count the municipal website advertising as having met the legal advertising requirements in the case when a newspaper fails to print the advertisement in a timely fashion.

As more and more newspapers falter, leaving municipalities in the untenable situation of not being able to act on critical matters before them, please join me in co-sponsoring this legislation to provide governing bodies with the necessary tools to allow them to conduct government business in a timely fashion and not be encumbered by lengthy and expensive litigation to overcome a newspaper's failure to advertise.

Introduced as HB2148