Democrats' Hearing Isn’t Broadcast On Government Television

Sep 19, 2013

Statehouse Democrats say several laws on women’s health issues that go into effect at the end of the month did not get the proper hearings.

They held after-the-fact hearings to let doctors and others weigh in on the new laws. But Democrats say majority Republicans have silenced their message once again. Ohio Public Radio's Jo Ingles explains.

Democratic State Representative Kathleen Clyde says new abortion and family planning laws set to go into effect never got the formal hearing they deserved.

Clyde – This is the first time women’s health experts and advocates will be able to weigh in on some of the harmful provisions.

So Clyde and a handful of Democrats sat and listened in a Statehouse hearing room as doctors, lawyers and others testified.  But one group that championed these new laws did not. 

Gonadakis - We think it’s the height of hypocrisy

Mike Gonadakis is President of Ohio Right to Life

Gonadakis – We had Statehouse Pro choice Democrats today holding hearings on a public hearing today in a public building and they refused to let Ohio Right to Life testify on the bill which they claimed they wanted to have hearings on all sides of the bill yet when we showed up they confiscated our documents and they barred us from speaking at the event so was this a publicity stunt? I don’t know but they banned us from speaking.

But the Democrats say they are the ones who have been prevented from speaking out on the issue.  Clyde says this testimony was supposed to be shown on the Ohio Channel…the government television channel that televises many of their press conferences.  And the Democrats blame Republicans for trying to silence the message once again. 

Clyde – Apparently it was the house Republicans ordering the Ohio Channel to abandon the public coverage of the event.  And that’s the information I received.  The cameras were there and as we were starting our hearing, they were yanked out.

But Mike Dittoe of the Ohio House Republicans says Clyde and Democrats are lying.  He says it was government television officials who decided to pull the cameras.

Dittoe – It was determined by them to be a committee hearing and not a press conference.  They made the decision to pull the cameras and we believe rightly so.  Now if the Democrats were holding a typical press conference, there would be absolutely no problem with what they were doing today but that’s not the case.

When I asked Dan Shellenberger, the head of Ohio Government Telecommunications, if he made the decision to pull the cameras, he responded this way.

Shellenberger – The legislature sets the rules.  They are determined by the programming committee and we have to follow those rules.

Ingles – Were you following the rules of the legislature in this case?

Shellenberger – The rules say we cannot cover official meetings, committee hearings and such and this was advertised as a hearing.

But Democrats say it was clear this was not an official hearing but was instead an opportunity to allow voices to be heard that weren’t heard before when the legislature was in session.  While the Democrats in a news release referred to the event as a hearing, there wasn’t a formal notification from the Ohio House as there is with official hearings. There was a plaque outside the door describing the event inside the room.  It had two words written on it ……press conference.