April 24, 2003
I just learned from law librarians in Ohio about an immediate legislative crisis there. H.B. 145, the Electronic Government Services Act, would prevent state agencies from providing access to information. It has been added to the budget bill which has already passed the House. This is model legislation promoted by a group called ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council, www.alec.org) that was introduced last year in a handful of states, including Ohio, and was successfully stopped.
H.B. 145 is now an add on to the budget bill, H.B. 95. It prohibits a state government agency from providing information if there are two or more competing private enterprises providing those services. That would mean that a government agency would not be allowed to post its regulations or decision on its Web site if, for example, Lexis, WestLaw, or other companies offer that information for sale.
This year's version of the bill exempts the Ohio Supreme Court and Legislature where much of the opposition last year focused. However, state agencies would be impacted by the legislation and agency information that is now available at no cost on agency Web sites will likely disappear if HB 145 is enacted.
Here's a link to the bill: [CLICK HERE]
Section 1306.20 Paragraph (I) defines "state agency" as "every organized body, office, or agency established by the laws of the state for the exercise of any function of state government, but does not include the general assembly, any legislative agency, the supreme court, the other courts of record in this state, or any judicial agency."
Section 1306.25 (E)(1) further includes under "state agency" "similar agency of a county, township, municipal corporation, or other political subdivision,..." It then substantially limits their ability to publish
electronically. While H.B. 145 is not as onerous as the previously withdrawn H.B. 482 of last year, it is a huge threat to public access.
This bill threatens the right of residents in Ohio from accessing state government information, created with their tax dollars, at no cost through the Internet. It is an abhorrent model that must be stopped short. Please get involved, especially if you have members in Ohio who can respond immediately to this serious threat.
Mary Alice Baish,
Associate Washington Affairs Representative,
American Association of Law Libraries