In this video, Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) answers reporters' questions about the Ohio Channel, which declined to broadcast House Democrats' informal hearing on women's health issues.
Columbus -- This is getting monotonous, but I can't overlook the latest cameras-in-committee-rooms fiasco that came down here at the Statehouse a couple of weeks ago.
Cameras were pulled out of an informal hearing by opponents of abortion-related law changes included in the state budget.
House Democrats say Republicans didn't want the public to hear their side of the issue.
House GOP say they had nothing to do with it, that the decision to block the broadcast was made by the Ohio Channel, based on rules blocking cameras in committee hearings.
An Ohio Channel employee added to the confusion by initially telling Democrats that the House Clerk's office pulled the cameras.
It's a mess of miscommunication and misunderstanding that could have been avoided if lawmakers would just install cameras in committee rooms and record all hearings and press conferences for taxpayers to see.
House Democrats gathered at the Statehouse last month to voice opposition to abortion restrictions signed into law by Gov. John Kasich earlier this year.
A normal person walking in off the street probably would have thought this was a committee hearing and not a press conference.
Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) and others sat in chairs, like lawmakers do during regular committee sessions, and speakers stood in front of them and read their testimony.
There were name cards in front of each participating lawmakers, comparable to the placards placed in front of legislators during committee hearings, and there were extra copies of testimony placed on a table for attendees.
Clyde and like-minded lawmakers say abortion-related provisions were added to the state budget at the last minute, with no time for committee deliberation; their informal hearing gave women's health advocates a place to publicly air their concerns.
It was political theater at its finest, with participants fully aware that this wasn't a formal hearing but a stunt.
Here's where things get murky, and unnecessarily so.
The Ohio Channel is on hand for floor sessions and finance committee hearings, and lawmakers also can request the broadcast of press conferences.
Generally speaking, there are no broadcasts of legislative committee hearings. That's a decision of a programming committee, made up of the GOP and Democratic leaders of the Ohio House and Senate.
House Democrats requested cameras for their informal hearing, but the Ohio Channel pulled out at the last minute, saying the room was set up for a committee hearing, not a press conference.
That's how Mike Dittoe, spokesman for the Ohio House Republicans, explained it. Rules forbid the Ohio Channel from streaming most committee hearings, and this looked like a committee hearing, he said.
Democrats immediately cried foul, saying Republicans didn't want the public to hear the other side of the debate.
The Ohio Channel added fuel to that fire in an email response to the House minority caucus, which stated, "… we were pulled out of your event at the last minute today by the House Clerk."
But Dittoe said it wasn't the Clerk but the Ohio Channel itself that made the decision.
Daniel Shellenbarger, executive director of the Ohio Channel, reiterated that position in an email.
"The event was billed as a hearing, therefore [we] were unable to cover it, as per the rules of the program committee," he wrote in an email, adding later, "We were notified by the House Clerk that this was a committee hearing and the press release stated it was a hearing after we had set up. We had been told previously that it was a press conference and not a hearing. It was a misunderstanding by us."
Clyde played host to a press conference on the same abortion-related issues a week later, where she chastised Republicans for blocking the cameras. But she also didn't request the Ohio Channel to participate in that day's event, which, I assume, would have broadcast without incident.
Democrats are now using the situation to say Republicans are quashing public discourse over controversial law changes.
Republicans are lashing back, saying Democrats wouldn't have a problem if they just followed the rules.
And Ohioans are still in the dark over what happened during that informal hearing on abortion laws and all other committee hearings where lawmakers are making decisions that will affect their lives and pocketbooks.
Email Kovac at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.