ONA pushes positive public records reforms

From the Ohio Coalition for Open Government:  The Ohio Newspaper Association has begun pushing four suggestions to improve Ohio’s open records laws.

When Ohio’s current open records statute became law, it was seen as nationwide model in many respects. That’s no longer the case due to a combination of problematic court decisions and the phenomenon known by the cliché “death by a thousand cuts.” We estimate there are more than 300 exceptions to the open records law in Ohio statutes, including 29 listed in the law itself.

Every legislative session brings new reasons for why new exceptions to openness are needed. As I write this on May 29, a House committee just fast-tracked an amendment to the House floor that appears to reduce transparency of JobsOhio. Despite Auditor Dave Yost’s request to at least wait a week so the proposed language can get a proper hearing, the House placed new restrictions on access to information about the economic development agency, which is funded with profits from the state-run liquor stores.

Meanwhile, issues raised by our digital age emerge all the time. In fairness, many of these issues raise legitimate concerns for public officials. For example, the sheer explosion in content means that many records requests take additional staff time to address.

We also are encouraged by the efforts of several well-meaning legislators and statewide elected officials to improve transparency. There are pending bills and initiatives to put a considerable volume of information about state government spending online. Two Republican House members are working to set standards so that information posted to the Internet is easier to search and organize – and remain freely available to the public.

A group of editors, legal experts and OCOG board members met over the winter to discuss the problems. We decided to continue to deal with the rollback efforts case-by-case and suggest four improvements to improve access to information in Ohio. Here they are: …

Please see the latest issue of the Open Government Report from the Ohio Coalition for Open Government.

The Ohio Coalition for Open Government is a member of NFOIC. –eds