Ohio House Bill 34 would allow some state agencies, local governments, certain board and commissions to send required notices by regular mail and e-mail, instead of certified mail, in several scenarios. For example, a county board of revision is required to notify a complainant and the applicable property owner of the time and place of a hearing for a complaint concerning property valuation. Under H.B. 34 the board of revision must make the notification "by either certified mail or, if the board has record of an internet identifier of record associated with the owner, by ordinary mail and by that internet identifier of record."
The bill defines "internet identifier of record" as "an electronic mail address, or any other designation used for self-identification or routing in internet communication or posting, provided for the purpose of receiving communication."
The Ohio Township Association supports HB 34, stating that its members "can attest that notification requirements can be extremely costly." It calls the option for regular mail and e-mail "a common sense approach to public notification requirements."
According to the bill's Fiscal Note & Local Impact Statement, Cuyahoga County estimates that approximately 85% of all required certified mail deliveries are returned unclaimed or undeliverable in a typical year. At an average cost of $5.00 per mailing to the county, the cost of these unclaimed or undeliverable items adds up to an estimated $500,000 annually. With so many certified mailings returned it would seem to be a pretty inefficient and costly manner of service.
Generally, the purpose of such notice is to afford a person "due process" before depriving him of property. This due process requires notice "reasonably calculated under the circumstances" to apprise the person of the hearing affording him the opportunity to be heard. It could be argued that regular mail and e-mail is more likely to provide actual notice to recipients today. Too many people don't claim certified mail because they are too busy, or they just don't want any more bad news. How many times have you received good news via certified mail?
For now, the alternative form of delivery in this bill would have limited application to 29 various situations where the government is sending the notice. But, if this works, might we see this as an acceptable means of service generally?
BH 34 passed the House unanimously and is currently pending before the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee.