Dec. 23, 2005 – A contentious bill awaiting Ohio Governor Bob Taftâ€™s signature would give state law-enforcement officials sweeping powers to question, detain and arrest people. It would allow authorities to demand identification in a broad range of circumstances, and it asks local law enforcement agencies to begin enforcing federal immigration law. The bill also exempts businesses from telling the public about safety and security threats.
Passed by both legislative bodies last week, the act is expected to be signed into law, though the Ohio arm of the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups have been urging state residents to implore Taft not to sign the measure. In a letter sent to supporters last week, the ACLU said the bill "substantially infringes upon Ohioansâ€™ First, Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights." They added that it "enshrines discrimination against aliens and immigrants" as well as "chills free speech and dissent."
The law, which opponents have dubbed the "Ohio Patriot Act," would task the stateâ€™s Division of Homeland Security with coordinating information-sharing among government and private organizations. The bill also imposes greater penalties on money laundering and prohibits the use of biological weapons, laws which already exist at the federal level.
The legislation has also come under fire for permitting operators of businesses such as chemical plants and other such facilities to keep safety vulnerabilities from the public they place at risk. The bill explicitly authorizes, but does not even require, the disclosure of hazard information to select government agencies while ensuring the revelations will not become public record.