By a unanimous vote of 90-0, the Ohio House of Representatives today passed House Bill 130, also known as DataOhio, legislation sponsored by State Representatives Mike Duffey (R-Worthington) and Christina Hagan (R-Alliance). A nearly identical bill passed the Ohio House last session by a unanimous vote of 92-0, but did not have time to pass the Ohio Senate during ‘lame duck’ session.
DataOhio would allow Ohio citizens to more easily find and use public record data online by standardizing formats to allow simplified programming and accounting methods, allowing quick comparison charts and graphs using public data. Possible uses include charts showing taxpayer spending, crime statistics, healthcare statistics and much more.
If enacted, DataOhio is intended to greatly reduce labor costs for research projects by eliminating repetitive tasks such as hand-retyping data into spreadsheets. In addition to supporting technology startup efforts, the bill could also help save taxpayer dollars by simplifying financial audits.
“DataOhio is about eliminating unnecessary expenses created by over-reliance on paper records and other difficult-to-use systems,” said Rep. Duffey. “DataOhio is essentially how online stock market and GPS data works today, but state and local governments have been slow to adopt the same best practices. The bill encourages better standards, but without mandates on local government.”
“DataOhio will make it easier to quickly and effectively obtain public information,“ said Rep. Hagan. “It is important that the public has confidence in our state and local governments, and I believe that providing greater, clearer access to data will provide much-needed transparency.”
A long list of witnesses have testified in support of DataOhio, including Ohio Auditor of State Dave Yost, State Librarian Beverly Cain, the Ohio Society of CPAs, the Ohio Newspaper Association, Greater Ohio, The Center for Community Solutions, the Buckeye Institute, OpenNEO, MORPC, and national transparency groups including the Data Transparency Coalition (which includes Ohio companies such as TeraData and StreamLink), the Sunlight Foundation and others.
The effort is also supported by individuals including Thomas Fitzpatrick, an economist from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Ned Hill, an economist with The Ohio State University, David Landsbergen, an open data research professor with The Ohio State University, Jason Seligman, an economist with The Ohio State University, Brian Kelley, CIO for Portage County; and Gene Krebs, a former Ohio House Republican state representative.
DataOhio, as described in House Bill 130, consists of four primary components:
1. The bill creates a DataOhio Board to allow various groups to meet monthly to work on improving access to public records and recommend standards for how public records are organized.
2. The bill asks the State Auditor to create simplified accounting systems for public offices to allow “apples-to-apples” comparisons, as Ohio citizens might currently expect but which is not possible.
3. The bill creates a single-location website – data.ohio.gov – to function as a quick access portal, also known as an online data catalog, to save citizens time in searching one website rather than dozens of differently formatted websites.
4. As an incentive for publishing a small amount of open data, mostly to help get local governments more comfortable with publishing data online, the bill provides a framework for $10,000 micro-grants to local governments if they successfully provide a small subset of data to the public online. The current version of the bill currently does not include any funding for the micro-grant program. Bill sponsors indicated they will be seeking agreement with the Ohio Senate on funding.
Taken together, these four components lay the foundation for Ohio citizens to have much easier access to public records, and would allow researchers to use their mobile phones or laptop computers to search rather than formally requesting hardcopies of public records. Small startup companies in Ohio could also use the data to create jobs in information technology.
A number of other states have implemented open data policies similar to DataOhio, including Texas, Illinois, Rhode Island, Utah, New York, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Maryland.
Reps. Duffey and Hagan have indicated that DataOhio would be complimentary to the Ohio Checkbook effort undertaken by Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, but that the legislation is technically a separate effort, as DataOhio works to establish data standards for a variety of non-financial data as well as financial data. As a result, some of the data produced might eventually be published by Ohio Checkbook, but it could just as easily be disseminated through other portals as well.