On Wednesday, the House Public Utilities Committee held its seventh hearing on Senate Bill 33, also known as the “Ohio Critical Protection Act”. SB 33 was passed out of committee by a 14-9 vote, despite vocal opposition from environmental and anti-infrastructure groups present at the meeting.
The Ohio Chamber of Commerce has supported bills in previous General Assemblies that prohibited physically damaging or tampering with critical infrastructure projects. Critical infrastructure projects outlined in this bill include railroads, water treatment facility, substations, telecommunications infrastructure, pipelines and/or freight transportation facilities, just to name a few.
The continued growth of Ohio’s economy depends on businesses being assured that capital investments in infrastructure in our state are safe from sabotage. Opponents of SB 33 claim that this bill will prohibit their first amendment right to free speech; however, this is a misunderstanding. If a “protestor” decides to take matters into one’s own hands and destroys property or jeopardizes the safety of the public, that “protestor” forfeits any protected right to free speech and thus allows local authorities to seek increased criminal and civil penalties.
SB 33 was designated as an Ohio Chamber of Commerce “Key Vote” in the Senate and will be denoted as such in House session. The Ohio Chamber urges swift passage of the Ohio Critical Protection Act.