By Dennis Hetzel, Executive Director

Dennis Hetzel

Hetzel

The latest version of the ONA’s Legislative Watch List has been posted in our “Members Only” area, and I encourage all our members to regularly skim through it. You can find it by clicking here.

Sometimes members are surprised by the depth and breadth of all we are facing.  To run successful businesses and do great journalism, you need to know what’s happening in Columbus.

Those two things go hand in hand in my experience as both an editor and publisher. Financial independence, adequate resources and community support are ingredients for a newsroom that can fulfill its mission.

Plus, sometimes you might see the name of a legislator with whom you have a particularly good relationship. Or, maybe you have strong feelings or unusual expertise on a topic of legislation. Let us know. There are many ways you can help and most don’t involve much time. It makes a huge difference when legislators hear from the “grass roots.”

I want to highlight two new items in today’s update:

HB 223: A threat to sheriff’s sales

If I still oversaw an editorial page, I’d support the overall intent of this bill, which would expedite the process to deal with abandoned, blighted property in urban areas. However, we learned that a banking interest group was considering an amendment that would have allowed all sheriff’s sales in Ohio to only be placed on government websites.

We have been working with all involved to understand their concerns and believe this proposal will be withdrawn.  While we certainly support digital public notices, we maintain that the notices must and should remain in print as well.

These meetings also might lead to some positive cooperation in which newspapers can do an even better job of publicizing sheriff’s sales. That’s good for the public, because Ohio’s newspapers are the experts on how to handle public notices for our customers.  I hope to have more to say about this in the future.

HB 429: Opening records for private police forces

We really like a bill filed this week by Democrat Heather Bishoff and Republican Michael Henne that would open public records of sworn, commissioned police officers with arrest powers who are employed by private entities such as private colleges and hospitals. This means that routinely available material such as arrest logs and incident reports aren’t available. That simply isn’t good public policy.

However, as you might expect, there is considerable resistance. Meetings have started to see if differences can be worked out.  Meanwhile, I distributed an op-ed column on this subject to all our editors and appreciate several papers that ran the column or used it as a basis for their own commentary.

As you will note, we are following many other bills and actively engaged on at least 20 different measures. We urge you to make it a point every month or so to scan through the Watch List. Your questions, feedback and support really matter. I can always be reached at dhetzel@ohionews.org.

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