SB5 is on its way to the ballot but the Statehouse Blackout is still going strong. Extreme conservative bills are being discussed right now and every day Ohioans are once again being left in the dark.
In a commentary in the Columbus Dispatch, Senior Editor Joe Hallet called the latest moves in the Statehouse “fringe government” that is “teeming with right-wing ideologues”. Over the last couple weeks, bills to ban abortion that anti-choice groups don’t even support, to allow guns in bars and open air sports arenas that serve alcohol, and bills to allow oil and gas drilling in our state parks are flying through the legislature.
Despite the extreme nature of these bills, the majority of Ohioans have no access to any of the debate and discussion taking place in ‘our house.’ Unless you have the time and money to come down to Columbus be one of the first people in the hearing room, you are locked out. They have the technology to allow every Ohioan a voice in government, and yet they refuse to let us see what they are doing.
Recently State Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) concisely laid out the facts "Wiring for all the rooms in the Statehouse was completed as part of the $3 million renovation in 1996. Each room is equipped to record audio online and cameras could be rolled in or ideally, mounted on the walls if used permanently.”
"There is absolutely no reason to continue practices that keep Ohioans from being able to be fully engaged in their state government. Further, a recent decision to provide video in committee hearings was made during the confirmation hearings of former Governor Ted Strickland's Director of the Department of Public Safety. As [legislation] moves forward the people of Ohio deserve to have public access and transparency into the legislative process."
· Wiring for video was installed in 1996
· Cameras are available to record committee hearings
· Ohio Government Television (www.ohiochannel.org) has the technology and bandwidth to stream live
· The Republican controlled Senate allowed hearings to be recorded and streamed live in 2010 when it suited their purposes
· Hundreds of people have signed up to testify on SB5
· Only a few dozen people are able to sit in the committee hearing room
Thanks to the help of activists like you, our petition to open up committee hearings to Ohio Government Television is going strong! Our efforts have created rumblings at the Statehouse and committee chairmen have started to allow more individuals to record committee hearings, but that is not enough. Inside sources have said that the Ohio Channel is in full support of putting committee hearings online but are being blocked by House and Senate Leadership. This cannot stand. We demand full access to committee hearings and coverage by Ohio Government Television and the Ohio Channel.
So why do Republican Statehouse Leaders continue this information blackout? What are they trying to hide? Huge changes like SB5 are being made behind closed doors by career politicians and lobbyists while hard working Ohioans are left out in the cold once again.
Sunlight is the best disinfectant. Please sign the petition and tell Statehouse leaders know that they can no longer operate in the dark. Ohioans deserve better.
Petition will be sent to Rep. Uecker, Chair of the Commerce and Labor Committee, and his Legislative Aides, Speaker of the House William Batchelder and his Legislative Aides, Dan Shellenbarger, Executive Director of Ohio Government Television, and William Carleton, Executive Director of the Capital Square Review and Advisory Board, the non-partisan board which oversees the Ohio Statehouse.
Currently, if citizens want to obverse committee hearings, they have to take the day off work, drive down to Columbus, pay for parking, and be one of the first few dozen in the committee hearing room. This places an undue burden on residents outside of Central Ohio and literally locks out hard working citizens who don’t have the luxury of taking a day off work to come watch committee hearings in the Statehouse.
The Statehouse currently has the capabilities to put committee hearings live on Ohio Government Television and OhioChannel.org. In 2010, Republican leaders in the Senate let ONN stream live during the Public Safety Director Confirmation Hearings in the 128th General Assembly.
In the interests of transparency, Statehouse Leadership and Committee Chairs should automatically approve video recording and live streaming on the Ohio Channel for every committee hearing, especially on sweeping legislation like Senate Bill 5. The people of Ohio deserve better than having to choose between 30 second sound bites and spending their hard earned money on a trip to Columbus to hear testimony.
Only those who are operating in the dark should fear the disinfecting sunlight of transparency.
Thank you for your time and consideration,