A major part of strengthening the state's economy is to ensure that the money the government brings in by way of taxes is used efficiently and wisely. That means holding government accountable at every level.
From Day One of this General Assembly, House Republicans have taken the lead on instituting policies that hold government accountable. The second bill introduced in the House requires the state auditor to conduct performance audits on state agencies. Also last year, Senate Bill 2 was signed into law, establishing the common sense initiative, which keeps a scrupulous eye on the types of regulations that government imposes on business and the perhaps adverse effects such policies can have. Along with Rep. Kristina Roegner, I had the pleasure of introducing HB 94, the companion legislation to SB 2, to the House last year.
The most recent example of holding state government's feet to the fire was signed into law in June. House Bill 326 imposes a criminal penalty on public officials who intentionally use taxpayer dollars for political purposes, such as for running a campaign or donating to a candidate or organization.
For some, it might be easy to assume that government business and politics simply go hand-in-hand. But there is an important line between money used to run the state and money used to elect people to public office. When citizens pay taxes to the government, they expect that it will be used for purposes that benefit the pubic-road construction, police and fire, public transit. They should not be used to elect someone to public office or to support an issue that some taxpayers might oppose.
Misusing public funds has obviously always been illegal in Ohio, but under previous law the only penalty assessed was a fine to recover the funds that were used. HB 326 enhances this penalty to a first degree misdemeanor, bringing it more in line with other campaign finance law violations.
House Bill 326 is a simple, common-sense bill intended to protect taxpayers from bad actors in government. This bill will deter public officials from defrauding the hardworking citizens of Ohio and puts in place stricter penalties for anyone who does so.
Rep. Andy Thompson may be reached by calling (614) 644-8728, e-mailing District93@ohr.state.oh.us, or writing to State Rep. Andy Thompson, 77 South High St., Columbus, Ohio 43215.