Democratic lawmakers and members of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus today applauded The City of Cleveland’s decision to sue the state to challenge Republican-led legislation that prevents local communities from setting hiring standards on publicly financed projects – a possible violation of Ohio’s “home rule” guarantee in the state constitution.
“Our state’s guiding document, in part, is meant to protect the freedom of local decision making in communities across Ohio,” said OLBC President and state Rep. Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati). “Local hiring standards have been an effective tool to push back against the high unemployment that plagues too many minority communities in our urban cores. For the state to take away tools that increase broad-based economic opportunity and increase our skilled workforce is unconscionable, but I applaud Cleveland leaders for fighting back against what is effectively taxation without participation.”
In May, Reece and OLBC members delivered a letter to Governor Kasich requesting that he veto House Bill 180. In their letter, the lawmakers highlighted the adverse effect the local hiring ban would have on the Cleveland Opportunity Corridor project as well as the city of Akron’s $1.4 billion sewer and water improvement plan, which had a local hiring target of 30 percent that would increase to 50 percent by 2018.
“I want to thank Mayor Frank Jackson and other local community leaders for taking a stand against eliminating local hiring standards that have been used by our city for years to increase minority participation, increase job training and keep local tax dollars in our community,” said state Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland). “As a state, we have to work in partnership with our local communities to find ways to increase access to economic opportunity. I hope that The City of Cleveland will be successful in fighting for the rights of all communities – big and small – to make decisions locally and independently that make the most sense for their residents.”
Previously, under the “home rule” guarantee of the Ohio Constitution Ohio, communities used local hiring quotas on publicly financed projects as a way to strengthen local workforce participation and, in turn, strengthen local economies. Urban areas typically have higher unemployment rates than the national average, making the decision to hire local even more impactful for improving the job market in urban areas with heavy minority populations.
“It is a sad day in our state when local communities are forced to sue the state to protect Ohio’s guiding document – our state constitution,” said state Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron). “Local communities have used hiring standards without undo interference from the state for years as a way to increase minority workforce participation and education while ensuring accountability on taxpayer-funded projects. Local communities should be able to make the best decisions for their residents, with the freedom to ensure the local workforce can share in the prosperity their tax dollars help build.”