Overwhelmingly approved by Ohio voters in November, the 13-member board took the oath to officially serve the state and started developing an approach to set standards for livestock care.
Finding Common Ground
After formal introductions and briefings on how the board will comply with Ohio’s rule-making process, ethics and public records laws, as well as the open meetings act, the diverse group got to work by using a foundation of shared knowledge to build upon initial areas of agreement.
Members discussed what each factor the board must consider when developing standards should encompass ,and started looking into livestock care standards already put in place by other organizations, broken down by species. According to Executive Director Mike Bailey, this step is a starting point for information gathering and research.
Public Input & Transparency
Boggs, also serving as the chair of the board, cautioned that the board “will not get too far into standards until we hear the public’s say,” emphasizing that all board activities will be transparent.
Though Tuesday’s meeting was strictly administrative and organizational, the board did accept written public comment.
Regional meetings will be held throughout the state to hear from the public and bring in speakers to talk about issues. The first of these meetings will be held Thursday, May 6, at a yet to be determined location in northeast Ohio. A complete schedule of public hearings is to be made available soon.
Other approaches to maintain transparency include:
- A website with a component for submitting public comment and the ability for Ohioans to sign up for electronic updates of any rules being considered by the board.
- A representative from the Ohio Supreme Court Commission on Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management will serve as an impartial third-party facilitator of board discussions to ensure an unbiased approach to carrying out the board’s mission.
Plan of Action
The board developed a general timeline with a goal of recommending standards in the fall and having a prioritized set of species-specific standards approved by the end of 2010.
A framework for technical advisory subcommittees to be set up by Vice Chair Tony Forshey, Ohio’s state veterinarian, was approved by the board. These will serve as the initial workforce to compile scientific data and research on animal care and well-being.
Regularly-scheduled board meetings will be held every two weeks during the summer beginning June 1.
No standards set by the board will go into place until approved through the formal, open, transparent JCARR (Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review) rules process, said ODA Counsel Bill Hopper.
Boggs said he will seek the approval of $354,187.85 in Fiscal Year 2010 and 2011 to fund the board (from already existing ODA funds). He said he will also request funding for additional staff to enforce standards in the next biennial budget if necessary. In addition, documentation of all sources of funding and where it’s being directed will be provided.
In response to concerns about a provision stating the board could receive donations, Boggs made it clear he has no intention of accepting donations from entities regulated by the board or from any organization with members regulated by the board. This decision was formally supported by board members in the form of a motion.
Progress on Priorities
Acknowledging the pressures put on the board by outside animal rights activists and a possible ballot initiative affecting the board in the fall, Boggs said it has a “need to show voters of Ohio some progress in a quick amount of time.” Members discussed which issues they considered the most pressing for the public and possibly prioritizing work on standards to reflect this.