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OPINION: Alabama public notice laws need updating

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Managing Editor

Alabama State law requires that government meetings of elected officials be open to the public.

This allows those who choose to attend to hear deliberation firsthand. While the regular meeting times of governing bodies are widely known and made known, meetings called for special decisions or those that need to be made before the next regularly scheduled meeting are also required to be stated to the public.

Alabama’s requirement for notice of meetings could use some updating. Municipal governments are simply required to post notice of the meeting on a bulletin board at city hall that can be seen by the public to be in line with the law.

Locally, the front door of city halls is often used, making the notice available for the public to view.

This law makes sense if most of the public is downtown at some point, which may have been the case when the law was actually written, but now that many residents are not downtown it seems an out of the way place.

Each of the local municipalities has a website that special called meetings could be easily uploaded to if they chose to or it became a requirement.

In today’s digital age, it seems more likely that someone would be on a city’s website looking for information, then walking to their city hall.

The last version of the Alabama Open Meetings Act available at openmeetings.alabama.gov was updated in 2015. I think many will agree a lot has changed in five years, and Section 3 of the Alabama Open Meetings Act  dealing with public notice could use an upgrade in light of the technology readily available to municipal governments.