News and information useful to Cleveland-Marshall College of Law students, faculty and staff.

Online Access to State Legal Information

map of 50 US statesFollowing up on last week’s post about Sunshine Week, which focuses on freedom of information and government transparency, it is also important to highlight public access to state law. The Digital Access to Legal Information Committee of the American Association of Law Libraries maintains detailed tables of State Online Legal Information. The tables provide information about free online access to the essentials of state law: court opinions, session laws and statutes, and administrative registers and codes. For researchers relying on this access, it is important for them to know whether the online versions of these legal materials are official, authenticated, have guaranteed continued availability, and will be preserved. Each state, including the District of Columbia, has its own table. Check out Ohio.

DHHS Cuts In-Person Advisory Committee Meetings

DHHS LogoThe U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has cut back on in-person meetings of Advisory Committees under the purview of the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH).  “To promote cost-effectiveness and efficiencies,” Advisory Committees are “to ensure that at least half of their committee meetings and all of their subcommittee meetings [are] conducted virtually.”  In-person Advisory Committee meetings are open to the public, and time is allotted for public comment.  Virtual meetings will mean Advisory Committee deliberations will not be public, and likely make robust discussion more difficult.  This change comes at an important time.  The Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Human Research Protections (SACHRP) is currently working on implementation of significant revisions to regulations concerning human research subjects – the Common Rule (45 C.F.R. 46).  SACHRP met in-person March 13-14, 2018, but is currently required to meet virtually on July 10, 2018 and Ocotber 16, 2018.

Sunshine Week 2018: Examining Open Government

March 11-17 2018 is Sunshine Week, the annual nationwide celebration highlighting the importance of freedom of information and government transparency. Sunshine Week has been recognized annually since 2005 by the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. These organizations are joined by news media, government officials, academic institutions, libraries, and all people interested in open government. The broad goals are to empower the public to get involved in all levels of government, to boost public access to government information, and to use that access and information to strengthen communities and individuals.

Sunshine Week is a good time to check on our government officials’ efforts at supporting governmental transparency. According to AP News, the current administration has set a new record for censoring and withholding government information more often than at any other time over the last decade. The Associated Press analyzed data on Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) compliance, covering eight months under the current President. The analysis revealed that the federal government provided censored files or nothing at all in 78% of the 823,222 requests made during that time, and the government spent a record $40.6 million defending those decisions to censor and withhold.

For information on Ohio’s Sunshine Laws see:

Ohio Open Government Laws 

Ohio Attorney General: “Ohio Sunshine Laws: An Open Government Resource Manual” (Yellow Book 2018) 

Ohio Coalition for Open Government

States Acting on Net Neutrality

 Net neutrality is the concept that your Internet Service Provider (ISP) should not be controlling what you have access to on the internet. Since ISPs control their customers’ connections to the internet, they are in the position to block sites, redirect users to different sites, or cause some sites and services to load slowly and run badly. Net neutrality has been in the news during the past few months as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has rolled back net neutrality rules that it had issued in 2015. The final rule, published on February 22 in the Federal Register, eliminates conduct rules imposed by the 2015 rules, and merely requires certain disclosures from ISPs about their services and practices. For more on the history of net neutrality, check out this timeline.

In response to the repeal of net neutrality, states have been taking up the issue. The National Conference of State Legislatures provides a summary and table of state action on net neutrality. In five states, governors have issued executive orders to protect net neutrality. Washington has become the first state to enact net neutrality legislation, while legislation has been proposed in 26 states. In the Ohio Legislature, House Concurrent Resolution 18, Continue Net Neutrality and Open Access, was introduced on December 4, 2017. The resolution recognizes the necessity of high-speed internet services, the importance of equitable access to those services, and the protections that had been mandated by the 2015 rules. The resolution declares Ohio’s support of net neutrality, and calls on the President and Congress to protect open internet access. For more on net neutrality, check out C|M|Law Professor Brian Ray discussing net neutrality on ideastream’s The Sound of Ideas, original air date December 18, 2017.

Ohio Resources: Register of Ohio

 When researching a legal issue, it is important to check for regulations on the topic, including proposed and recently adopted regulations. The Register of Ohio is the official source for notice of and information about Ohio state agency rule-making processes. In addition to notices of proposed rule-making and hearings, the Register also publishes recently adopted rules, emergency rules, no-change rules, and more. The Register is kept up to date according to a strict publication and purgation schedule. Rules that have been purged from the Register can be found codified in the Ohio Administrative Code.

The Register website offers a few different ways to browse or search for documents, and it is helpful if you can narrow your search by agency. For example, if you are looking for Medicaid rules relating to nursing facilities, you can select search by “Keyword in Title and Filing Agency,” then enter Ohio Department of Medicaid as the agency. You can also browse by agency to look at all proposed and new rules, which is useful for staying up to date if you work in an area that is heavily regulated by a particular agency.

For more on Ohio sources, check out the Ohio Primary Law Guide. For more on administrative law, check out the Administrative Law Guide.