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Provision to make OhioCheckbook.com statutory advances in committee

Special to the Legal News

Published: August 11, 2017

House Bill 40 seeks to codify a state government expenditure database based in large part on the success of Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel's implementation of OhioCheckbook.com.

The bill's sponsors - Republican Reps. Jonathan Dever and Dave Greenspan of Madeira and Westlake, respectively - noted upon introduction of the measure that a future state treasurer easily could dismantle the resource without it being on the books.

HB 40 calls for creation of the Ohio State Government Expenditure Database, which would include the following pertinent details :

- The amount of the expenditure;

- The date the expenditure was paid;

- The vendor to which the expenditure was paid; and

- The state entity that made the expenditure or requested that the expenditure be made.

Recognizing the success of the treasurer's database, the lawmakers reasoned in their testimony in support of the measure that it was necessary for the benefit of Ohio taxpayers to make the database a statutory requirement.

"Ohio's taxpayers have the right to know how the state is spending their hard-earned money," Dever said in a press release. "By requiring future state treasurers to maintain this database, our state government will become more transparent and accountable."

OhioCheckbook.com has provided a more accountable government, the joint sponsors said. In less than a year after the website's activation, Ohio moved from 46th in the county to first for transparency in government spending.

"Transparency and accountability are the cornerstones of responsive and responsible representation," Greenspan added. "Taxpayers of our state deserve to have visibility to review how their dollars are being spent and this legislation is a step in that direction."

HB 40 requires the database feature a searchable database of all expenditures with the ability to filter expenditures by the category of expense and by the Ohio Administrative Knowledge System accounting code for a specific good or service.

Additionally, the database should allow for search and filter options by amount, date paid, vendor and state entity, according to the language of the bill.

An ability to aggregate data and download information obtained through the database also are musts of the plan.

State and school district employee salary and employment information would also be included on the database, per the proposal.

Addressing privacy concerns, a provision of HB 40 would prohibit the database from including any information that is determined to be confidential or that is not a public record under state law.

The provision also relieves the treasurer's office of any liability if a confidential record is mistakenly contained in the database.

The bill, a facsimile of legislation introduced by Dever during a previous session of the General Assembly, has won the support of 26 cosponsors in the Ohio House of Representatives.

A fourth hearing of the measure before the State and Local Government Committee had not been scheduled at time of publication.

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