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Currently, Lakewood Township's "official newspapers," which is where all legal notices such as for pending land use applications are published, are the Asbury Park Press and The Star Ledger.

Legislation which just cleared its first legal hurdle may permit the Township to instead publish legal notices in our local newspapers.

Existing N.J.S.A. 40:53 provides that a municipality may adopt an "official newspaper" where they publish all legal notices.

This Statue states specific criteria for such newspapers:

All ordinances or other public notices which a municipality may be required by law to publish... shall be published in at least one newspaper published and circulating in the municipality, and if there be no such newspaper, then in at least one newspaper published in the county in which the municipality is located and circulating in the municipality.

N.J.S.A. 35:1-2.1 et seq additionally provides:

All newspapers printed and published in the English language within the state at least once a week for at least one year continuously shall be deemed legal newspapers for the publication of official advertisements.

Whenever, by law, it is required that there be published in a newspaper, ordinances, resolutions or notices ... by any municipality... such newspapers must... meet the following qualifications:
Be entirely printed in the English language,
Be printed and published within the State of New Jersey,
Be a newspaper of general paid circulation possessing an average news content of not less than 35%,
Shall have been published continuously in the municipality where its publication office is situated for not less than 2 years and shall have been entered for 2 years as second-class mail matter under the postal laws and regulations of the United States...

As none of the Jewish-owned newspapers which are currently published in Lakewood meet this criteria, each year the Township is forced to adopt the Asbury Park Press and The Star Ledger as their "official newspapers," and that is where all legal notices are published.

However, legislation which just cleared its first legal hurdle may change that.

The Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee on Thursday voted to advance the Senate Committee Substitute for Senate Bill No. 3466 which would amend the existing law to permit State and municipal entities to publish certain legal notices in newspapers that is published at least once each week, for at least 48 weeks of the year (instead of the currently required 52 weeks of the year).

The bill also amends the current law to permit legal notices to be published in newspapers that either do or do not have a paid subscription.

The pending bill, as it currently stands, does not remove the requirement that the newspaper must possess an average news content of not less than 35 percent.

The New Jersey Press Association, which represents over 100 local newspapers in the Garden State, spoke vehemently against the proposed legislation.

The bill was introduced by Republican Senator Jean Stanfield.

"Local newspapers are a valuable resource for delivering important information throughout our communities,” said Stanfield (R-8). “This legislation gives local governments more options for publishing required legal notices by expanding the types of papers that qualify under state law...

"The goal of this legislation is to enable local governments to publish legal notices in newspapers where residents are more likely to have access and be informed,” Stanfield added. “This may also help community newspapers that have struggled in recent years to survive.”

Having cleared Committee, the bill will soon head to the full Senate floor.

The bill would also be required to be introduced and passed in the Assembly before it could head to the governor's desk for a signature.

The Office of Legislative Services has not yet certified this bill with a fiscal note.

In 2016, after heavy newspaper coverage of then-Governor Chris Christie's Bridgegate scandal, which resulted in three convictions or guilty pleas from Christie allies, Christie revenged by pushing hard for legislation that would take away advertising revenue from the newspapers by permitting legal notices to be published online. At the end of day, due to heavy lobbying efforts of the New Jersey Press Association, the legislation failed to muster enough votes.

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