Guest Column From State Representative Christina Hagan
Bills to Bring Greater Transparency to Local Government

Since the time I was sworn in as your state representative, Ohio has continued to take steps to keep our government open and transparent.  Two of the most notable advances have been the House Finance and Appropriations Committee‘s ability to be streamed live online and updates to the House website to post committee documents.  As a firm believer that transparency creates a well informed citizenry, I followed in this spirit, and introduced a series of bills, with Representative Mike Duffey, known as the DataOhio Initiate.

The DataOhio Initiative consists of four bills (House Bills 321-324) that will ensure more data is publically available from state and local entities in a form that is easier to view than many of the archaic systems that are currently in existence. This legislation would catalog and place all of the attainable information from our more that 2,000 local government units, and locate it on a single website.

The implementation of this program would provide tools to search financial information from Ohio’s counties, cities and townships, allowing for spending comparisons throughout Ohio’s various municipalities.  In addition, a 15-member DataOhio Board would also serve to communicate with lawmakers about online data access.

A voluntary program, DataOhio would allow for grants equaling $10,000 to serve as an incentive for local governments to make this information available. These grants are funded through an appropriation in the most recently passed state budget, and are to be used to help pay for the time and cost of making data more available. While budgets are tight at the local and state level, it is import that our struggling government entities be given assistance to provide this necessity information to the public. Openness about how your tax dollars are being spent should always be a priority.

A singular, publically-available website to view this massive amount of information, will allow lawmakers and Ohio’s citizens to make better choices when it comes to the wellbeing of our state. After hours of work on the DataOhio policies, these bills recently passed out of the House State and Local Government Committee, with unanimous support. I am hopeful for swift passage of the legislation through the full House this fall, before the bills move to the Senate for further consideration.

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