Your right to know at stake in Ohio bills

Your right to know at stake in Ohio bills

take back america

Written by
Chrissie Thompson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Every effort to expand or constrict access to government records in Ohio affects our ability to hold government accountable. But in almost every case, the public records we review are open to request from any member of the public.” – You know it!

“That’s why the Mansfield News Journal observes national Sunshine Week, which kicks off today. It’s a time to remember the importance of keeping officials’ actions under a strong, bright light and to defend the right to do so in every arm of government.” – Can the News Journal be turning a NEW leaf? We already know how they used to ban posters, even after they lost anonymity on their site from speaking on on Political ads by local officials, hmmm?

Take a close look at some of lawmakers’ recent efforts to make government records more secret or more open.

JobsOhio audit is private

“Last year Republican state Auditor Dave Yost subpoenaed records of Gov. John Kasich’s privatized economic development arm, JobsOhio. But the resulting public audit of the firm’s records will be the last. Under this new law, JobsOhio’s lease of state wholesale liquor profits is private money that is shielded from a public audit. It’s unclear whether JobsOhio will release to the public future audits by private firms.” – I shout bullcrap!

“Kasich repeatedly has said JobsOhio should be exempted from most public records laws so its job-creation efforts can be unhindered by state bureaucracy. Yost says his office, not a private firm, should conduct the audit: “We’re independently elected and accountable to the people.” – Come on John, you calling us “the people” bureaucrats?

Groups challenging whether the state can give JobsOhio public money are currently waiting for the state Supreme Court to determine whether they have standing to sue.

Impact: Constricts open records access

Bill: S.B. 67

Sponsor: Sen. Bob Peterson, R-Sabina

Status: Signed into law in June

Economic development discussions can be secret

“City councils and county commissions can now go into executive session to discuss economic development issues, such as tax breaks for new businesses, without public scrutiny.” – Really?, I don’t think so!

“Local governments should have freedom to make tax-break offers privately to keep their competitive edge over nearby localities, supporters say — especially given the freedom JobsOhio has. But secrecy in government discussions hinders the ability of citizens to hold elected officials accountable, critics argue.” – No doubt about it, the citizens should wake up to the fact they are not paying attention.

Impact: Constricts access to government discussions

Bill: Part of state budget, H.B. 59

Sponsor: Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Green Township, sponsored the provision.

Status: Signed into law in June

Reasons would be clear for executive session

“In order to go into private, executive session, public bodies such as city councils and county commissions would have to specifically state the purpose of the session, such as by giving the name of the public employee to be discussed or by sharing whether a discussion with an attorney is related to an imminent court case.”

“Public meetings would include any gathering of a majority of members of a public body to discuss public business. Currently, only planned meetings fall under the Open Meetings Law.” – Interesting!

The legislation would help prevent officials from being vague and even evasive when they decide to hold executive session, says Dennis Hetzel, executive director of the Ohio Newspaper Association. Opponents worry a chance, casual conversation between, say, two members of a three-person county commission could turn into a public meeting.

Impact: Would expand access to official business

Bill: S.B. 93

Sponsor: Sen. Shannon Jones, R-Springboro

Status: Received one committee hearing

County commissioners could meet via videoconference

Commissioners from multiple counties could conduct routine business such as ditch and drainage hearings by video conference or teleconference, making it more convenient for them to fulfill the Open Meetings Law.

Impact: Would make it easier to hold open meetings

Bill: S.B. 155

Sponsor: Sen. Dave Burke, R-Marysville. Similar bill from Rep. Rex Damschroder, R-Fremont, and Rep. Tim Brown, R-Bowling Green

Status: Passed Senate in November, passed House committee in February

Private police forces would be under public records law

Private police forces, usually at private colleges and hospitals, make arrests. But Ohio doesn’t require reports of those arrests to be a public record. All arrest records in Ohio would become public under new legislation in the Ohio House, even if a private police officer made the arrest.

Impact: Would expand the records open to the public

Bill: H.B. 429

Sponsors: Rep. Heather Bishoff, D-Columbus, and Rep. Michael Henne, R-Clayton. Similar bill from Rep. Bill Patmon, D-Cleveland

Status: Received one committee hearing

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