The Ohio Senate overwhelmingly voted Tuesday to take the next step of fully empowering its fledgling private economic development corporation to take over the state’s job-creation efforts.
But first the chamber voted to ensure Ohio didn’t take another step backward by shielding more government records from public view. Although the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Mark Wagoner (R., Ottawa Hills), said there was no intent to erode Ohio’s public records law, Attorney General Mike DeWine and the Ohio Newspaper Association had raised concerns that would have been the result.
“This is an economic development bill,” Mr. Wagoner said. “This isn’t a public records bill, and our intention is not to expand public records exceptions. … It’s simply to ensure that JobsOhio receives the same public records protection that is currently received in the Ohio Department of Development.”
The idea was to protect a JobsOhio document legally shielded from public review from indirectly becoming public if it is shared with another state agency. But Mr. DeWine and newspapers had worried the language could be interpreted as making a previously public document from another government agency private if it is shared with JobsOhio.
“What’s really good about this amendment is that it goes back to the original JobsOhio statute and clarifies language there, so there’s no ambiguity,” said Dennis Hetzel, executive director of the Ohio Newspaper Association. “There can be no end run around public records law by having JobsOhio touch a record.”
Senate Bill 314 now goes to the House, which has already approved a variation of the same thing. Early last year, lawmakers voted to create JobsOhio, a private, nonprofit corporation that would essentially negotiate tax breaks, loans, and other job-creation incentives with businesses that would presumably be signed off on by what would be left of the current state Department of Development.
“JobsOhio bill fixes public-records issue” from The Columbus Dispatch
“DeWine wants JobsOhio bill, law changed over public-records access” from The Columbus Dispatch
“JobsOhio bill is raising red flag” from The Canton Repository
“JobsOhio cannot become a place for Ohio public records to disappear” from The Plain Dealer