Legal ads bill advances in the Legislature

Legislation that would allow The New Orleans Advocate to vie for the business of publishing legal notices in Orleans and Jefferson parishes cleared more legislative hurdles Wednesday.

The House Committee on Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs advanced Senate Bill 630 to the full House.

Meanwhile, the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee endorsed House Bill 787 - a similar bill - to the full Senate.

The actions make both bills one step away from final legislative passage.

“This is a bill that simply allows the only daily newspaper in the city of New Orleans - in my opinion - to compete as the official journal,” the Senate bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Danny Martiny told the committee.

State law says each parish in the state must designate a newspaper as the official publication to run judicial advertisements and legal notices. In order to be selected, newspapers are required to meet a number of different stipulations, among them is a requirement that the publication must have been physically located in the parish for five years.

The Legislature made changes to the law a few years after The Times-Picayune stopped delivering a printed newspaper seven days a week. The changes allowed The Times-Picayune’s owner, NOLA Media Group, to continue to compete for the judicial advertisements and legal notices.

SB630 would create flexibility for The New Orleans Advocate, which launched in 2012 and is the city’s only daily, home-delivered newspaper.

“It’s a fairness issue. I think The Picayune’s been treated very fairly by this body,” said Martiny, R-Metairie.

The House bill is sponsored by state Rep. Jeff Arnold, D-New Orleans.

For more coverage of Louisiana government and politics, follow our Politics Blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog/