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Statement by SPJ President Dana Neuts urging lawmakers to vote “no” to Ohio’s proposed HB663


Update 12/2/2014: SPJ continues to monitor HB 663 as it is considered by the Ohio Senate this week. It is on the agenda during a 10:45 a.m. informal hearing today and again for a first reading at 9 a.m. Thursday. Former SPJ President Kevin Smith and members of the Ohio Newspaper Association spoke against the bill in person last month before it passed the Ohio House of Representatives. Smith plans to attend the first reading of the bill on Thursday. SPJ continues to urge journalists and others concerned with open government and sunshine laws to tell lawmakers that this bill keeps the public, the media and potentially even the defendant in the dark when it comes to carrying out executions, and that is unacceptable. Submit your comments to Committee Chair Sen. John Eklund here. For a full list of committee members, click here.

November 18, 2014

Dana Neuts, SPJ National President, 360.920.1737, dneuts@spj.org
Jennifer Royer, SPJ Communications Strategist, 317.361.4134, jroyer@spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS – The Society of Professional Journalists urges Ohio lawmakers to vote “no” to House Bill 663, the so-called Secret Executions Bill. SPJ joins its Region 4 leaders and the Ohio Newspaper Association in denouncing the bill.

While HB 663’s primary aim is to protect medical professionals who carry out executions and drug makers who make the drugs used in executions, it would also make all information and records related to an execution or death sentence confidential. The legislation, if passed, would make the already difficult job of covering capital punishment more difficult for reporters, which ignores Ohio sunshine laws and compromises transparency.

More specifically, the bill would make information about lethal injection formulations secret, just as Ohio grapples with critical decisions about how to carry out executions while avoiding cruel and unusual treatment of condemned inmates. When it comes to carrying out a death sentence, more transparency and more reporting should be required, not less.

The Ohio House Policy and Legislative Oversight Committee is conducting its second hearing on the bill today and Wednesday, with a possible vote at 3:30 p.m. ET Wednesday at the Columbus Statehouse, Room 115. The bill, introduced Nov. 10, would become law March 20, 2015 if passed.

SPJ urges Ohio journalists and others concerned with open government and sunshine laws to tell lawmakers to vote “no” on this bill. Representatives from the Ohio Newspaper Association and SPJ will be at this week’s hearings about the bill to testify against it.

To support transparency, we encourage opponents of the bill to:

• Contact bill sponsors Rep. Jim Buchy, R-Greenville, at 614-466-6344 and Rep. Matt Huffman, R-Lima, at 614-466-9624.
• Sign a petition against the bill, drafted by Ohioans to Stop the Death Penalty at www.otse.org.
• Contact other members of the House Policy and Legislative Oversight Committee, listed here.
• Show up at the Statehouse hearings this week.

Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For more information about SPJ, please visit spj.org.


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