By Dennis Hetzel, Executive Director
If you’re not a Warren Zevon fan, you won’t get the headline, but I couldn’t resist that song title from the late, great Mr. Zevon.
It’s an apt description of what we are facing at the Statehouse.
I say “lawyers” because the proposed expansion of the state sales tax, which will include advertising, has raised major concerns among numerous groups, including the Ohio Bar Association. The lawyers and the auto dealers have emerged as among the most vocal public opponents to the plan. They are joined by bankers, insurance agents, laundry owners, travel agents, Realtors, broadcasters, outdoor advertisers, the motion picture industry, and on and on. The newspaper industry is hardly alone.
I say “money” because the sales tax expansion is all about money. The expansion as proposed helps offset the revenue loss from cutting the sales tax percentage to 5 percent and offering income tax and small business tax breaks. See the item below for more detail on the advertising tax situation.
I say “guns,” because Senate Bill 60 has been introduced that would eliminate the limited exception journalists now have in Ohio to view concealed carry gun permits. It is no surprise that this is an outgrowth of the controversy surrounding a New York newspaper’s decision to run a list, complete with a searchable map, of gun permit holders a few months ago.
Never mind that the existing Ohio law would make this kind of project impossible since a journalist is unable to do anything but view a record – no note-taking or copying allowed. As absurd as the existing law is, we must oppose any effort to further restrict access to information.
The bill sponsor, Sen. Joe Uecker, offered a similar measure in the last legislative session when he was a House member, and we hope to meet with him soon.
Click here for the Dayton Daily News article on the bill.
Click here for an excellent background article on access to this information across the country. It contains numerous, concrete examples of terrific journalism based on this type of data and why it should not be secret.
This also is another example of how access to records in Ohio erodes in a “death by 1,000 cuts” fashion. We are holding an editors’ summit today (March 8) at the ONA office along with some legal experts on open records. The topic: What we can do to reverse some of these alarming trends.
The Legislative Watch List also has been updated, and you will see there already are several other bills related to public records, meetings and notices that have been filed.