- Associated Press - Friday, June 15, 2018

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Voters in about a dozen North Dakota school districts have overwhelmingly approved publishing local school board minutes in newspapers, while lawmakers consider a bill draft allowing counties to move their minutes online.

Tuesday’s election results for publication of school boards’ minutes in newspapers ranged from 80 to 94 percent approval statewide, the Bismarck Tribune reported .

The results are historically consistent with voters wanting minutes in newspapers, said Steve Andrist, executive director of the North Dakota Newspaper Association.

“They almost always vote well over 80 percent in favor of publishing the minutes in the newspaper, so I think it’s a very, very strong voter endorsement for the system that we have in place,” he said. “I think it speaks pretty loudly to the question about whether counties should be allowed to choose to put them online instead of in the newspaper.”

A bill draft to allow counties to publish their proceedings online instead of in a newspaper came about after a study examined costs associated with political subdivisions’ public notices.

Republican Sen. Diane Larson said she’s not against public notices in newspapers, but that she supports alleviating associated costs.

“I just don’t think it’s something that should be paid for by taxpayers, that’s all,” she said. “I think it’s something that should be just absorbed into the price of printing the paper.”

Bismarck Tribune publisher Gary Adkisson said the costs associated with printing public notices are about 2 to 3 percent of the newspaper’s total revenue. He also said public notices also go on the newspaper’s website, and that a local newspaper has a greater reach than a government website.

“It’s ‘Do you want the public to be informed or not?’ And if you do, typically, the local newspaper has either the biggest or one of the biggest audiences in the market,” Adkisson said. “And so there’s a cost for reaching an audience.”


Information from: Bismarck Tribune, http://www.bismarcktribune.com

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