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End Secrecy On Legislation

It has been said the process of enacting laws is something like making sausage: You really don’t want to know too much about how it happens.

But would you buy a package of sausage bearing a label stating the maker refuses to tell customers what goes into the product? Probably not.

Ohioans are required to accept new state laws without having full knowledge of what goes into them, however. It’s the law.

After the arrest of former state House of Representatives Speaker Larry Householder in connection with an alleged $60 million bribery scheme, officials at Common Cause Ohio decided to learn more about the law involved in the matter. It is House Bill 6, regarding subsidies for some electric utilities.

What Common Cause — or anyone else — can find out about HB 6 is very limited, however.

Much of the documentation involving bills in the General Assembly is held by the Legislative Service Commission, which helps lawmakers research and write proposed laws. These bill files reportedly include memorandums from bill sponsors and material from lobbyists who either support or oppose the measures.

In 1999, legislators voted to close bill file records to the public. So in Ohio, which has page after page of open records statutes requiring transparency at other levels of government, lawmakers have made it clear they have no intention of allowing you to know how they make their particular brand of sausage.

A move is afoot to repeal the 1999 ban on revealing bill file information. Ohioans, probably very few of them even aware legislators had clamped a lid on the information, should demand it be removed. It is an invitation to corruption. It is, in a word, wrong.

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