Op-Ed: Events erode the willingness of legislators to work with governor
by State Rep. Tom Niehaus
published in The People's Defender
Legislators will return from a two-week Thanksgiving break Dec. 2, and one of the hottest topics is likely to be Governor Bob Taft’s latest announcement about conceal carry legislation.
Whether you support the right of citizens to carry concealed guns or not, the governor’s announcement November 18 may have ramifications far beyond this one piece of legislation.
Legislation involves compromise. It requires participants to negotiate in good faith. The announcement from the governor’s office adding another condition before he supports a conceal carry bill seems to break that good faith concept.
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Since taking office five years ago the governor has consistently said he would not support legislation allowing law-abiding, trained Ohioans to obtain permits to carry concealed weapons unless it had the support of law enforcement, specifically the Ohio State Patrol. The Buckeye State Sheriff’s Association and the Fraternal Order of Police either support the bill or have a neutral position. The highway patrol is opposed.
Since the House and Senate passed separate versions of the bill, a conference committee is trying to work out the differences.
The conferees said from the beginning they were considering only two key issues - affirmative defense and how to legally carry a gun in a vehicle transporting children under the age of 18. Then the governor added a new condition.
In a letter to the Speaker of the House and President of the Senate dated November 18 he expressed concerns about a provision in the bill that would keep information about permit holders private. The governor wants certain information to be considered a public record. The privacy provision has been in the bill for years.
That new condition came as a surprise to everyone involved. It wasn’t even conveyed to conferees before their first meeting on the same day the letter was dated. Reaction from the primary sponsor of the bill, Rep. Jim Aslanides (R – Coshocton) was swift and predictable.
"I don't believe it,” Aslanides told Gongwer News Service. “The governor has been clear for five years on his position and that is, it must pass the law enforcement test. I think my amendments will answer the concerns of the highway patrol and get us through this," he said.
"To all of a sudden come up with public records, since it's been in the bill since 1995, is confusing and unbelievable. It's a dramatic shift of an entire position that the people of Ohio have heard from him," Aslanides said.
President of the Senate Doug White (R-Manchester)*, a member of the conference committee, also expressed disappointment about the new development. "We're going to continue with the conference committee as planned and focus on those two areas of difference and get the bill, we hope,” White said to Gongwer through a spokeswoman. “That (records) provision will not be part of the discussions."
One of my colleagues speculated the conference committee was getting too close to an agreement, prompting the governor to add the new condition.
Regardless of the reason, this latest turn of events may further erode the willingness of legislators to work with the governor on key issues.
On a lighter note, Emily and I wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.
To contact Representative Tom Niehaus call 614-644-6034, e-mail him at [email protected], or write to him at the Ohio House of Representatives, 11th floor, 77 South High St., Columbus, OH 43215-6111. You can also read previous columns on his web site at www.tomniehaus.com.
*Note: In this same issue (the paper is published in his home district), Senator Doug White chose to focus his attention on House legislation which would curb people who "just drive off" without paying for their gas. Rep. Niehaus has announced his candidacy for White's District 14 Senate seat (White is term-limited and cannot be re-elected).