You Paid For It: How much an official ‘State Barn’ in Ohio is costing you

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — If you’ve driven anywhere in Ohio, you’ve likely seen them dotted across the countryside in various colors and shapes, many painted with the same graphic.

They are Ohio’s Bicentennial barns, and new legislation at the Ohio Statehouse wants to recognize them and all other barns. House Bill 12 would make the barn Ohio’s official historical state structure.

The Ohio barn bill even has its own Twitter page. It has full support from Ohio House lawmakers, but some call it a waste of legislator time and your taxpayer dollars.

The bill started as a class project two years ago for a then group of middle school students in Westerville.

“It’s such an important part of our history,” Adriane Thompson, 14, said.

Adriane and a few former classmates were assigned to come up with a new state symbol.

“You never really realized how important they were, “ Adriane added. “I learned more than I thought there was to know about barns. Really we are trying to raise awareness about Ohio barns.”

Two other students were involved in crafting this bill and were interviewed, but later decided they did not want to participate. As a courtesy, NBC4 has removed them from this story at their parents’ request.

With their research and idea, the girls sought out Representative Anne Gonzales of Westerville. Gonzales had an ongoing campaign to get young people involved in learning the legislative process.

“There were 11 other states that developed programs to preserve the barn,” Gonzales said.

She introduced the bill last year. In the last couple months, the bill has passed the House of Representatives and is now on its way to the Senate.

While the bill has zero fiscal cost, it is costing lawmaker time and taxpayer dollars.

“Usually you have a hearing a week so you are probably talking about 6-7 weeks,” said Greg Lawson with the Buckeye Institute, a non-profit independent think tank that tracks government spending and whose mission is to advance free market public policy.

Lawson estimates up to seven hours of legislator time has been spent on the Ohio Barn Bill.

“We don’t want to see money being spent on stuff that’s not useful,” Lawson said.

In Ohio, lawmakers earn an average of $60,000 a year to craft state legislation. The state house also employs a group of paid employees called the Legislative Service Commission which spends time and tax dollars providing drafting, fiscal, research, training, code revision, and other services to the Ohio General Assembly. LSC staff members include attorneys, budget analysts, economists, research associates, and support personnel. This all comes at a time when lawmakers are still working out a billion dollar budget, which is due June 30th.

Representative Gonzales argues the bill is important and does more than highlight barns. She says it also inspires an apathetic political youth.

“It raises awareness of how important it is for young people to get involved politically,” Representative Gonzales said.

She argues the bill shows young people how laws are crafted and how important it is to get involved and make a difference.

The bills originator Adriane and her group argue that Ohio barns are a piece of history.

“They are being taken down,” Adriane said.

She and her counterparts believe they are a piece of our past that are quickly being forgotten and should be saved.

“We are trying to help support these groups already trying to save Ohio barns,” Adriane Thompson added, “We learn about government in school, it’s so different and rewarding to be a part of it.”

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