A proposed bill aims to reverse a controversial 2017 law that gives Guilford County municipalities the option of posting legal notices on government websites instead of in print.

Local governments in North Carolina are legally required to post notices in newspapers for a variety of things, like public hearings and zoning proposals. But that changed in Guilford County about four years ago.

Former Republican state Senator Trudy Wade was successful in getting legislation passed that allowed the county to post the notices electronically, avoiding newspaper fees. The provision was added in an unrelated bill. It was considered a pilot program.

Critics say the change hurts newspapers by impacting their revenue. They also argue that print information is vital to residents who struggle with internet connectivity or just don't have a computer at home.

Democratic state Senator Michael Garrett says these concerns spurred him to file a bill that would revoke the changes made in Guilford County called the “Fair Treatment for Journalism."

“It's a conversation that we need to be deliberate about," he says. "That we have an open and fair conversation where the public participates and it goes through the committee process and it applies statewide, not in a handpicking of communities local communities where certain folks feel they are not being treated fairly by their local press ... it's about transparency and keeping people informed.”

Garrett's bill comes as other counties seek to do the same as Guilford and shift to posting public notices online. 

Two similar bills have recently been introduced in the House.

 *Follow WFDD's Keri Brown on Twitter @kerib_news

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