130th Ohio General Assembly
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S. B. No. 47  As Introduced
As Introduced

125th General Assembly
Regular Session
2003-2004
S. B. No. 47


Senator Stivers 



A BILL
To amend section 121.22 and to enact section 101.17 of the Revised Code to create an exception in the Open Meetings Law from the requirement of actual physical presence for members of public bodies who are called to active duty, to permit those members, under specified circumstances, to vote from their active duty locations within twenty-four hours after a vote of the public body, to amend Section 5 of Sub. H.B. 390 of the 124th General Assembly to extend the time within which members of the National Guard and reserve components of the Armed Forces of the United States who have been called to active duty must pay real property and manufactured home taxes, and to declare an emergency.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF OHIO:
Section 1. That section 121.22 be amended and section 101.17 of the Revised Code be enacted to read as follows:
Sec. 101.17.  (A) A member of the general assembly who is called to active duty for two hundred seventy days or less need not be present in person at a committee meeting or at a session of the house of the general assembly of which the person is a member in order to vote at that meeting or session, as applicable. Except as otherwise provided in division (A)(3) of this section, the vote of such a member shall be counted as a valid vote if the member's vote is registered by telephone, facsimile transmission, electronic mail or other internet communication, or other method of communication within twenty-four hours after a vote is conducted at the meeting or session, as applicable.
(2) To the extent feasible, such a member voting or attempting to vote pursuant to division (A)(1) of this section shall use private, nongovernmental resources. If the use of private, nongovernmental resources is not feasible, a person voting or attempting to so vote may utilize governmental resources, if the person's commander or other appropriate commanding officer approves the use of those resources for that purpose.
(3) If a vote cast pursuant to division (A)(1) of this section would constitute the deciding vote in any matter voted on by the committee or the house of the general assembly of which that person is a member, that vote shall not be counted.
(4) No member shall vote or attempt to vote under division (A)(1) of this section if the casting of the member's vote would interfere with the member's active duty obligations. Any such member shall obtain the approval of the member's commanding officer prior to voting or attempting to so vote under that division.
(5) A member who votes pursuant to division (A)(1) of this section shall not be considered to be present for purposes of determining whether a quorum is present at the meeting or session, as applicable.
(B) As used in this section:
(1) "Committee" and "meeting" have the same meanings as in section 101.15 of the Revised Code.
(2) "Active duty" has the same meaning as in division (F) of section 5919.34 of the Revised Code.
Sec. 121.22.  (A) This section shall be liberally construed to require public officials to take official action and to conduct all deliberations upon official business only in open meetings unless the subject matter is specifically excepted by law.
(B) As used in this section:
(1) "Public body" means any of the following:
(a) Any board, commission, committee, council, or similar decision-making body of a state agency, institution, or authority, and any legislative authority or board, commission, committee, council, agency, authority, or similar decision-making body of any county, township, municipal corporation, school district, or other political subdivision or local public institution;
(b) Any committee or subcommittee of a body described in division (B)(1)(a) of this section;
(c) A court of jurisdiction of a sanitary district organized wholly for the purpose of providing a water supply for domestic, municipal, and public use when meeting for the purpose of the appointment, removal, or reappointment of a member of the board of directors of such a district pursuant to section 6115.10 of the Revised Code, if applicable, or for any other matter related to such a district other than litigation involving the district. As used in division (B)(1)(c) of this section, "court of jurisdiction" has the same meaning as "court" in section 6115.01 of the Revised Code.
(2) "Meeting" means any prearranged discussion of the public business of the public body by a majority of its members.
(3) "Regulated individual" means either of the following:
(a) A student in a state or local public educational institution;
(b) A person who is, voluntarily or involuntarily, an inmate, patient, or resident of a state or local institution because of criminal behavior, mental illness or retardation, disease, disability, age, or other condition requiring custodial care.
(4) "Public office" has the same meaning as in section 149.011 of the Revised Code.
(C) All meetings of any public body are declared to be public meetings open to the public at all times. A Except as otherwise provided in divisions (K) and (L) of this section, a member of a public body shall be present in person at a meeting open to the public to be considered present or to vote at the meeting and for purposes of determining whether a quorum is present at the meeting.
The minutes of a regular or special meeting of any public body shall be promptly prepared, filed, and maintained and shall be open to public inspection. The minutes need only reflect the general subject matter of discussions in executive sessions authorized under division (G) or (J) of this section.
(D) This section does not apply to any of the following:
(1) A grand jury;
(2) An audit conference conducted by the auditor of state or independent certified public accountants with officials of the public office that is the subject of the audit;
(3) The adult parole authority when its hearings are conducted at a correctional institution for the sole purpose of interviewing inmates to determine parole or pardon;
(4) The organized crime investigations commission established under section 177.01 of the Revised Code;
(5) Meetings of a child fatality review board established under section 307.621 of the Revised Code and meetings conducted pursuant to sections 5153.171 to 5153.173 of the Revised Code;
(6) The state medical board when determining whether to suspend a certificate without a prior hearing pursuant to division (G) of either section 4730.25 or 4731.22 of the Revised Code;
(7) The board of nursing when determining whether to suspend a license or certificate without a prior hearing pursuant to division (B) of section 4723.281 of the Revised Code;
(8) The state board of pharmacy when determining whether to suspend a license without a prior hearing pursuant to division (D) of section 4729.16 of the Revised Code;
(9) The state chiropractic board when determining whether to suspend a license without a hearing pursuant to section 4734.37 of the Revised Code.
(10) The executive committee of the emergency response commission when determining whether to issue an enforcement order or request that a civil action, civil penalty action, or criminal action be brought to enforce Chapter 3750. of the Revised Code.
(E) The controlling board, the development financing advisory council, the industrial technology and enterprise advisory council, the tax credit authority, or the minority development financing advisory board, when meeting to consider granting assistance pursuant to Chapter 122. or 166. of the Revised Code, in order to protect the interest of the applicant or the possible investment of public funds, by unanimous vote of all board, council, or authority members present, may close the meeting during consideration of the following information confidentially received by the authority, council, or board from the applicant:
(1) Marketing plans;
(2) Specific business strategy;
(3) Production techniques and trade secrets;
(4) Financial projections;
(5) Personal financial statements of the applicant or members of the applicant's immediate family, including, but not limited to, tax records or other similar information not open to public inspection.
The vote by the authority, council, or board to accept or reject the application, as well as all proceedings of the authority, council, or board not subject to this division, shall be open to the public and governed by this section.
(F) Every public body, by rule, shall establish a reasonable method whereby any person may determine the time and place of all regularly scheduled meetings and the time, place, and purpose of all special meetings. A public body shall not hold a special meeting unless it gives at least twenty-four hours' advance notice to the news media that have requested notification, except in the event of an emergency requiring immediate official action. In the event of an emergency, the member or members calling the meeting shall notify the news media that have requested notification immediately of the time, place, and purpose of the meeting.
The rule shall provide that any person, upon request and payment of a reasonable fee, may obtain reasonable advance notification of all meetings at which any specific type of public business is to be discussed. Provisions for advance notification may include, but are not limited to, mailing the agenda of meetings to all subscribers on a mailing list or mailing notices in self-addressed, stamped envelopes provided by the person.
(G) Except as provided in division (J) of this section, the members of a public body may hold an executive session only after a majority of a quorum of the public body determines, by a roll call vote, to hold an executive session and only at a regular or special meeting for the sole purpose of the consideration of any of the following matters:
(1) To consider the appointment, employment, dismissal, discipline, promotion, demotion, or compensation of a public employee or official, or the investigation of charges or complaints against a public employee, official, licensee, or regulated individual, unless the public employee, official, licensee, or regulated individual requests a public hearing. Except as otherwise provided by law, no public body shall hold an executive session for the discipline of an elected official for conduct related to the performance of the elected official's official duties or for the elected official's removal from office. If a public body holds an executive session pursuant to division (G)(1) of this section, the motion and vote to hold that executive session shall state which one or more of the approved purposes listed in division (G)(1) of this section are the purposes for which the executive session is to be held, but need not include the name of any person to be considered at the meeting.
(2) To consider the purchase of property for public purposes, or for the sale of property at competitive bidding, if premature disclosure of information would give an unfair competitive or bargaining advantage to a person whose personal, private interest is adverse to the general public interest. No member of a public body shall use division (G)(2) of this section as a subterfuge for providing covert information to prospective buyers or sellers. A purchase or sale of public property is void if the seller or buyer of the public property has received covert information from a member of a public body that has not been disclosed to the general public in sufficient time for other prospective buyers and sellers to prepare and submit offers.
If the minutes of the public body show that all meetings and deliberations of the public body have been conducted in compliance with this section, any instrument executed by the public body purporting to convey, lease, or otherwise dispose of any right, title, or interest in any public property shall be conclusively presumed to have been executed in compliance with this section insofar as title or other interest of any bona fide purchasers, lessees, or transferees of the property is concerned.
(3) Conferences with an attorney for the public body concerning disputes involving the public body that are the subject of pending or imminent court action;
(4) Preparing for, conducting, or reviewing negotiations or bargaining sessions with public employees concerning their compensation or other terms and conditions of their employment;
(5) Matters required to be kept confidential by federal law or regulations or state statutes;
(6) Details relative to the security arrangements and emergency response protocols for a public body or a public office, if disclosure of the matters discussed could reasonably be expected to jeopardize the security of the public body or public office;
(7) In the case of a county hospital operated pursuant to Chapter 339. of the Revised Code, to consider trade secrets, as defined in section 1333.61 of the Revised Code.
If a public body holds an executive session to consider any of the matters listed in divisions (G)(2) to (7) of this section, the motion and vote to hold that executive session shall state which one or more of the approved matters listed in those divisions are to be considered at the executive session.
A public body specified in division (B)(1)(c) of this section shall not hold an executive session when meeting for the purposes specified in that division.
(H) A resolution, rule, or formal action of any kind is invalid unless adopted in an open meeting of the public body. A resolution, rule, or formal action adopted in an open meeting that results from deliberations in a meeting not open to the public is invalid unless the deliberations were for a purpose specifically authorized in division (G) or (J) of this section and conducted at an executive session held in compliance with this section. A resolution, rule, or formal action adopted in an open meeting is invalid if the public body that adopted the resolution, rule, or formal action violated division (F) of this section.
(I)(1) Any person may bring an action to enforce this section. An action under division (I)(1) of this section shall be brought within two years after the date of the alleged violation or threatened violation. Upon proof of a violation or threatened violation of this section in an action brought by any person, the court of common pleas shall issue an injunction to compel the members of the public body to comply with its provisions.
(2)(a) If the court of common pleas issues an injunction pursuant to division (I)(1) of this section, the court shall order the public body that it enjoins to pay a civil forfeiture of five hundred dollars to the party that sought the injunction and shall award to that party all court costs and, subject to reduction as described in division (I)(2) of this section, reasonable attorney's fees. The court, in its discretion, may reduce an award of attorney's fees to the party that sought the injunction or not award attorney's fees to that party if the court determines both of the following:
(i) That, based on the ordinary application of statutory law and case law as it existed at the time of violation or threatened violation that was the basis of the injunction, a well-informed public body reasonably would believe that the public body was not violating or threatening to violate this section;
(ii) That a well-informed public body reasonably would believe that the conduct or threatened conduct that was the basis of the injunction would serve the public policy that underlies the authority that is asserted as permitting that conduct or threatened conduct.
(b) If the court of common pleas does not issue an injunction pursuant to division (I)(1) of this section and the court determines at that time that the bringing of the action was frivolous conduct, as defined in division (A) of section 2323.51 of the Revised Code, the court shall award to the public body all court costs and reasonable attorney's fees, as determined by the court.
(3) Irreparable harm and prejudice to the party that sought the injunction shall be conclusively and irrebuttably presumed upon proof of a violation or threatened violation of this section.
(4) A member of a public body who knowingly violates an injunction issued pursuant to division (I)(1) of this section may be removed from office by an action brought in the court of common pleas for that purpose by the prosecuting attorney or the attorney general.
(J)(1) Pursuant to division (C) of section 5901.09 of the Revised Code, a veterans service commission shall hold an executive session for one or more of the following purposes unless an applicant requests a public hearing:
(a) Interviewing an applicant for financial assistance under sections 5901.01 to 5901.15 of the Revised Code;
(b) Discussing applications, statements, and other documents described in division (B) of section 5901.09 of the Revised Code;
(c) Reviewing matters relating to an applicant's request for financial assistance under sections 5901.01 to 5901.15 of the Revised Code.
(2) A veterans service commission shall not exclude an applicant for, recipient of, or former recipient of financial assistance under sections 5901.01 to 5901.15 of the Revised Code, and shall not exclude representatives selected by the applicant, recipient, or former recipient, from a meeting that the commission conducts as an executive session that pertains to the applicant's, recipient's, or former recipient's application for financial assistance.
(3) A veterans service commission shall vote on the grant or denial of financial assistance under sections 5901.01 to 5901.15 of the Revised Code only in an open meeting of the commission. The minutes of the meeting shall indicate the name, address, and occupation of the applicant, whether the assistance was granted or denied, the amount of the assistance if assistance is granted, and the votes for and against the granting of assistance.
(K) A member of a public body who is called to active duty and who is stationed in the United States need not be present in person at a meeting open to the public in order to be considered present or to vote at the meeting. It is sufficient for such a member of a public body to be present via methods of telecommunications by which members of the public can hear and interact with the member of the public body. Such presence of a member of a public body also shall be considered for purposes of determining whether a quorum is present at the meeting.
(L)(1) A member of a public body who is called to active duty for two hundred seventy days or less need not be present in person at a meeting of that body in order to vote at that meeting. Except as otherwise provided in division (L)(3) of this section, the vote of such a member shall be counted as a valid vote if the member's vote is registered by telephone, facsimile transmission, electronic mail or other internet communication, or other method of communication within twenty-four hours after a vote is conducted at the meeting.
(2) To the extent feasible, such a member of a public body voting or attempting to vote pursuant to division (L)(1) of this section shall use private, nongovernmental resources. If the use of private, nongovernmental resources is not feasible, a person voting or attempting to so vote may utilize governmental resources, if the person's commander or other appropriate commanding officer approves the use of those resources for that purpose.
(3) If a vote cast pursuant to division (L)(1) of this section would constitute the deciding vote in any matter voted on by the public body, that vote shall not be counted.
(4) No member of a public body shall vote or attempt to vote under division (L)(1) of this section if the casting of the member's vote would interfere with the member's active duty obligations. Any such member shall obtain the approval of the member's commanding officer prior to voting or attempting to so vote under that division.
(5) A member of a public body who votes pursuant to division (L)(1) of this section but who does not meet the requirements of division (K) of this section shall not be considered to be present for purposes of determining whether a quorum is present at the meeting.
(M) As used in this section, "active duty" has the same meaning as in division (F) of section 5919.34 of the Revised Code.
Section 2. That existing section 121.22 of the Revised Code is hereby repealed.
Section 3. That Section 5 of Sub. H.B. 390 of the 124th General Assembly be amended to read as follows:
Sec. 5. (A) This section applies to any real property or manufactured or mobile home that is:
(1) Owned by a member of the National Guard or a member of a reserve component of the Armed Forces of the United States who is called to active or other duty under Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Noble Eagle, or the directive issued by the Governor on September 28, 2001, or a successor to that directive;
(2) Owned by the spouse of such a member;
(3) Owned jointly by such a member and that member's spouse or dependent parent; or
(4) Owned by the dependent parent of such a member who dies during such duty or as the result of wounds or illness incurred during such duty.
For purposes of this section, a "dependent parent" is a parent who, at the time the member was activated, received from the member at least half of the dependent parent's support, including food, shelter, clothing, and medical and dental care.
(B) The member, the member's spouse, or the member's parent, as applicable, may apply to the county treasurer for an extension for the payment of taxes and assessments charged against the real property or manufactured or mobile home and payable during the period of the member's duty service and the six months ensuing termination thereof. Application shall be made not later than the last day of the sixth month after the month in which the member's duty terminates. The applicant shall provide evidence satisfactory to the county treasurer to demonstrate eligibility for the extension as described in division (A) of this section.
If the county treasurer determines that the applicant qualifies for an extension under this section, the county treasurer shall enter into a contract with the applicant for payment of the taxes and assessments in installments in the same manner as, and subject to the same terms and conditions of, contracts for the payment of delinquent taxes pursuant to section 323.31 of the Revised Code, except that the contract shall specify that payments shall begin in the seventh month after the member's duty terminates. Notwithstanding sections 319.49, 323.01, 323.121, 323.132, 4503.06, 5721.01, and 5721.011 of the Revised Code, taxes and assessments, payment of which has been extended under this section, do not constitute delinquent taxes and shall not be placed on the delinquent land list or delinquent manufactured home tax list unless the contract becomes void, and a new contract is not entered into, pursuant to section 323.31 of the Revised Code.
(C) If a member, a member's spouse, or a member's parent qualifies for the extension provided in this section, and that member, spouse, or parent has designated an agent for the payment of taxes and assessments the payment of which is so extended, that agent shall not require the member, spouse, or parent to pay to the agent any such taxes and assessments for the period for which payment is extended under division (B) of this section. If such taxes or assessments are paid by the member, spouse, or parent to an agent as part of a mortgage loan installment payment, the agent shall deduct the portion of the payment that represents such taxes and assessments from the amount of each such payment payable during the period of extension prescribed by division (B) of this section.
(D) If the member, the member's spouse, or the member's parent has entered into a contract pursuant to this section before the first day of the seventh month after the month in which the member's duty terminates, the county auditor and treasurer shall remove from the tax list and duplicate, respectively, any penalties and interest that were charged under section 323.121 or 4503.06 of the Revised Code during the member's duty and before the first day of the seventh month after the month in which the member's duty terminates.
(E) Notwithstanding section 323.131 of the Revised Code, a county treasurer shall include a notice of, and information about, the extension provided in this section on or with tax bills mailed or delivered under section 323.13 or 4503.06 of the Revised Code.
Section 4. That existing Section 5 of Sub. H.B. 390 of the 124th General Assembly is hereby repealed.
Section 5. This act is hereby declared to be an emergency measure necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, and safety. The reasons for such necessity are that active duty military personnel may face real economic hardships while serving their country and urgently need the financial relief provided by the real property and manufactured home tax extensions authorized by this act and that military personnel serving in civil offices are unable to cast necessary votes in those offices while absent from this state serving on active duty. Therefore, this act shall go into immediate effect.
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