Justices Uphold State Ban On Local Law Requiring Residents On City Projects

Sep 24, 2019

A split Ohio Supreme Court has upheld a state law that invalidates a Cleveland ordinance requiring public works construction projects to hire city residents for 20 percent of the work, or the city could cut their contract price by 2.5 percent. 

Four justices agreed with state solicitor Ben Flowers, who argued before them in March that the Republican-dominated state legislature was right to approve a law in 2016 that invalidated the so-called Fannie Lewis Law, passed by the Democratic Cleveland City Council in 2003.

Flowers pointed to a ruling upholding a ban on cities from requiring employees to be residents, saying the state should protect a worker’s freedom to choose where to live.

“Laws like Fannie Lewis, with a quota, do not because the non-resident is at a disadvantage as to 20 percent of the labor hours," Flowers told the court.

But Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor wrote that the state law violates the home-rule provision in the Ohio Constitution. The court’s two Democrats, Michael Donnelly and Melody Stewart, joined in that dissent.

Cities have long had concerns about their local ordinances being overruled by state laws - and quite often it becomes a clash between Democratic local officials and Republican state lawmakers.

House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) wrote in a statement: “The state should partner with local communities to expand economic opportunities for everyone, not attack home rule authority and restrict residents from participating in their own communities’ economic development. Local hiring standards are an effective tool for communities to combat high unemployment rates, especially among minority communities in our state’s urban cores. This decision does not benefit working families and in fact, unnecessarily hurts them.”