House Bill 9 Amends Ohio Public Records Law
with Joanna Saul • Summer Associate
The Ohio General Assembly recently passed House Bill 9, which makes a number of amendments to the “Ohio Public Records Act” that take effect on September 29, 2007. The changes to public records law under House Bill 9 include: (1) a requirement that the Attorney General and other public offices to prepare model public records policies; (2) the establishment of a public record training program for public offices; (3) provisions providing journalists access to records regarding a person’s license to carry a concealed handgun; and (4) a number of amendments to preexisting public records law.
1. Public Record Policies H.B. 9 requires the Attorney General to develop and provide to all public offices a model public records policy in order to provide guidance to public offices in developing their own public record policies for responding to public records requests. The public offices in turn are required to adopt their own public records policy, which may or may not be based on the AG’s policy. According to staff at the AG’s office, the model policy will be completed in mid-August and posted on the AG’s website The public offices’ individual policies may not limit the number of public records that the public office will make available to a single person, may not limit the number of public records that it will make available during a fixed period of time, and may not establish a fixed period of time before it will respond to a request for inspection or copying of records, unless that period is less than eight hours.
2. Public Records Training Programs The Attorney General is also required to develop, provide, and certify training programs and seminars for all elected officials in order to enhance the officials’ knowledge of the duty to provide access to public records by the Public Records Law. The training must be three hours for every term of office for which the elected official was appointed/elected. The Attorney General may also contract with another public or private entity to provide the program. All elected officials are required to attend.
3. Access to Concealed Carry Records A journalist may submit to a sheriff a signed, written request to view the name, county of residence, and date of birth of each person to whom the sheriff has issued, renewed, suspended, or revoked a license or temporary license to carry a concealed handgun. The journalist may view, but not copy the information.
4. Amendments to Pre-Existing Public Records Law For the most part, H.B. 9 codifies existing caselaw regarding public records. For example, Section 149.43 of the Ohio Revised Code will now provide that:
• a request is not required to be in writing;
• a public office can require the requester to pay for copies in advance;
• a public office is not required to let a requester make his or her own copies;
• no public office can require disclosure of the requester’s identity;
• no public office can require disclosure of the intended use of the record;
• if a request is ambiguous or overly broad, the public office can deny the request
• if part of the record is exempt, the rest of the record must be provided H.B. 9 also makes the following changes to public records law:
• Under prior law, a public office was required to mail copies via U.S. mail; now, a public office can transmit the document by any means of delivery, such as an email.
• H.B. 9 clarifies a public office’s duties if it decides to redact a record or deny a request: if the record is denied, the public office must provide the requester with an explanation, including legal authority, setting forth why the request was denied.
HB 9 makes a number of other changes related to public records law. The full text of House Bill 9 or the bill analysis is available from the Ohio Legislative Services Commission website: http://www.lsc.state.oh.us/.