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Published: Tuesday, 2/8/2011

Ohio bill would subject all public-private groups to openness

COLUMBUS -- Any public-private organization created by the state would be subject to the same public records and open-meeting laws as full-fledged government agencies under a bill introduced Monday by a former Toledo TV anchor.

Rep. Matt Lundy (D., Elyria) proposed the Taxpayer's Right to Know Act to address the controversy over JobsOhio, Gov. John Kasich's nonprofit corporation that would take over the economic development functions of the Department of Development.

The Republican-controlled House recently authorized creation of the organization with no Democratic votes in support. The bill is now in the GOP-controlled Senate, where it is also expected to see swift action.

"Every elected official in this state and this country knows that taxpayers would never stand for government operating in the dark or operating behind closed doors out of public view…,'' Mr. Lundy said. "But in 2011, the taxpayers' right to know is under attack because of the push for public-private partnerships. Our governor and others are looking for ways to operate in the dark without any regard to the taxpayer's right to know.''

Mr. Kasich and his new development director, Silicon Valley venture capitalist Mark Kvamme, have defended the move to shield the new public-private JobsOhio from some provisions of state law requiring deliberations on decisions to take place in public and making certain records available for public and journalist review.

They've said the restrictions are needed to ensure that business secrets are not endangered by working with the state on job-creation initiatives and so as to not give competing states a glimpse into Ohio's game plans.

Democrats tried without success during last week's House debate to extend these open government laws to JobsOhio. It remains unclear whether Mr. Lundy would have any success with his stand-alone bill.



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