88th LegislatureLocal NewsLegislation Seeks to Reform Local Legal Notice Laws

The pending bill seeks to give local governments more options for legal notices, which are currently restricted to approved newspapers.
March 3, 2023
Legislation pending in the Texas House of Representatives is seeking to reform the state law that governs local legal notice requirements, with proponents saying the proposal would increase visibility and save tax dollars.

House Bill (HB) 622 by Rep. Matt Shaheen (R-Plano) would give local governments more options to publish required legal notices, providing greater circulation.

The reform alters current laws, which create a monopoly for certain newspapers by requiring local governments to pay to place their legal notices only with newspapers that qualify under specific circumstances.

This has prompted calls for reform from those who say the laws are now outdated and serve as a barrier to greater transparency at a lower cost to taxpayers.

“Newspapers are now a hurdle to transparency as they cannot adequately comply with the requirement for public notices since many are no longer delivered locally,” Shaheen told The Texan regarding his bill. “As technology improves, the way newspapers do business has changed, yet crony newspaper publishers continue to fight this legislation, even if it means less transparency for everyday Texans.”

The Texan Tumbler

Local officials across Texas have echoed support for Shaheen’s legislation.

The Texan spoke with Odessa Mayor Javier Joven, who said the current laws use tax revenue to help fund local media outlets at the expense of other options that provide greater circulation at a lower cost.

“Obviously we want to get more circulation and more eyes seeing our legal notices and most importantly, this would be a huge saving for our taxpayers,” Mayor Joven told The Texan. “I have been watching, following, and certainly supporting this type of legislation, especially as we see local print media subscriptions drop tremendously as of late and it keeps people from being better informed.”

Mayor Jim Jarratt of Granbury also weighed in on the need for local governments to have flexibility in legal notice laws, telling The Texan anything that helps local officials provide greater service at a lower cost is worth considering.

“I’m always looking for ways to reduce cost and improve service, that is one of the key responsibilities of any government entity. And I think this bill is doing just that,” Jarratt said, adding, “I notice that people are looking at doing this across the nation, as a matter of fact,” giving the example of similar legislation proposed in South Dakota.

“This is all about public servants doing our best to provide the public with the best service at the least cost,” Jarratt explained. “Just like many others, I don’t get my news just from the newspaper anymore,” referencing the prevalence of online media outlets.

“I think people deserve to have the opportunity for flexibility and more options. This is a bill I believe we need to look at and carefully consider for both cost and transparency reasons.”

Several other bills have been filed relating to local government legal notices.

Senate Bill 943 by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) requires local newspapers with a website to publish the notice online at no additional cost. The requirement is contingent upon a statewide depository for online legal notices being hosted by the Texas Press Association.

Rep. Terri Leo-Wilson (R-Galveston) filed HB 2863 which would allow local governments to place their legal notices only on the website of a qualifying newspaper, as opposed to the present requirement that notice is placed in a printed paper.


Disclosure: Unlike almost every other media outlet, The Texan is not beholden to any special interests, does not apply for any type of state or federal funding, and relies exclusively on its readers for financial support. If you’d like to become one of the people we’re financially accountable to, click here to subscribe.

Get “KB's Hot Take”

A free bi-weekly commentary on current events by Konni Burton.

Matt Stringer

Matt Stringer is a reporter for The Texan who writes about all things government, politics, and public policy. He graduated from Odessa College with an Associate Degree in Paralegal Studies and a Bachelor’s Degree in Management and Leadership. In his free time, you will find him in the great outdoors, usually in the Davis Mountains and Big Bend region of Southwest Texas.