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New law expedites legal review of public records request denials

COLUMBUS – Senate President Keith Faber (R-Celina) announced Tuesday announced the signing of legislation designed to make it easier for Ohioans to navigate the public records request process. The bill was signed June 28 and will be effective in 90 days.

Last month the Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 321, which provides an expedited process to an individual who has had a public records request denied by a public office at the state, county and local levels. The Ohio House also approved it unanimously

“This legislation knocks down the financial and legal barriers that ordinary Ohioans face when trying to access public records,” said Faber. “By making the public records process easier to navigate, we’re acting to improve public confidence in the transparency of our government.”

Senate Bill 321, sponsored by Faber, will establish procedures for filing a dispute if a person’s public records request is denied. For only $25, an individual can file a complaint with the Court of Claims that will begin with a mediation process designed to resolve the dispute over access to the requested public records.

If mediation fails, a Special Master at the Court of Claims will make a expedited recommendation for the Court to consider before issuing a binding decision.

Senate Bill 321 received strong support from Auditor Dave Yost, Attorney General Mike DeWine and the Ohio Newspaper Association.

According to the Legislative Service Commission’s Fiscal Note on SB 321, “The Court of Claims expects to adjudicate approximately 200 public records cases annually. To handle that workload, the Court plans to hire an additional six employees, including two special masters, two staff attorneys, one executive assistant, and one support staff…

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