Open records bill stands on own merit

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 14, 2005

Any government worth having is a government that is an open book for the people it serves. Perhaps we're being overly simplified, but we never cease to be amazed at the number of people - some of who allege to have the good of the people at heart - who want close the open door of government.

And, in a few cases even that is not enough. They'd be happy to flip the deadbolt and set the chain on the door, as well.

A good case in point is a slightly veiled attempt to muddy a plan to revise and strengthen Ohio's public records law.

Email newsletter signup

Rep. Scott Oelslager (R-Canton) sponsored House Bill 9. The bill would simply clarify and encourage compliance of the existing public records laws.

The need for H.B. 9 is clear. Last year, dozens of newspapers all across the state of Ohio performed an audit of public records. Of the hundreds of records requested throughout the state's 88 counties, only about half of the requests were granted. Let's consider that for a moment. Approximately one half of information that you - as a citizen of the United States - has the right to see was actually offered for review.

Government workers, in a combination of arrogance and ignorance, mostly the latter, held the remainder of the information sought close to the vest.

H.B. 9 is a good piece of legislation and one that should become the law.

But lately, a few lawmakers want to include other issues in the debate over H.B. 9. Among the topics they'd like to discuss alongside H.B. 9 is the issue of whether or not the names of persons issued concealed carry weapons permits should be public. Obviously, our feelings toward the importance of keeping matters of public records, well, public, extend to the CCW issue, too.

That said, the two issues should be handled separately. H.B. 9 doesn't need additional amendments or modifications. The bill is simply a way to encourage compliance with the existing laws.

Having added debate on other issues in an attempt to delay or possibly gut the purpose of H.B. 9 shouldn't be allowed.

Even though the majority of the public may never exercise their right to walk down to the courthouse or the city hall and review public documents, they should always have that right and H.B. 9 will help ensure they do.