Ohio Senate declines registration of arsonists

By MARC KOVAC Dix Capital Correspondent Published:

The Ohio Senate declined to concur on legislation that would create a registry of arsonists after GOP members balked at a provision added in the House to make the listing a public record.

On a party-line vote, the chamber sent Substitute Senate Bill 70 back to the House for reconsideration of its amendments or to set up a conference committee to hammer out the differences.

The legislation requires individuals convicted of arson offenses during the previous decade to register with county sheriff's offices, providing their full name or any aliases they use, address, details of their offenses and other information.

Registrations would run $50 initially, then $25 annually thereafter. Those failing to comply could face felony charges.

The Ohio House, through a floor amendment, voted to make the registry a public record, counter to the original version. Sen. Tim Schaffer, a Republican from Lancaster who sponsored the bill and worked for its passage for several years, said the aim was to create a list that could be used by law enforcement and investigators.

Schaffer said Attorney General Mike DeWine opposed the public records amendment, too, estimating that it would cost $250,000-$500,000 a year or more to meet the requirement.

"There was never a consideration about making this database public," DeWine's office wrote in a memo to Schaffer. "In fact, all participants specifically agreed that it should not be so. It was to be used exclusively as a law enforcement investigative tool."

But Sen. Mike Skindell, a Democrat from the Cleveland area, said the registry should be a public record. He said the provision added to the bill would not require online posting, and he questioned the cost estimates.

"Who is the attorney general to say that this information is of no public value or use?" Skindell asked. "There are a lot of uses for a registry... of arson offenders, from criminal statistics to the press doing certain investigations."

The vote to reject concurrence was 23-10.

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