Cleveland’s ‘Fannie Lewis’ local-hiring law upheld by appellate court
Updated 5:24 PM; Posted 5:10 PM
Cleveland officials won another legal victory on Thursday in their effort to preserve a local law requiring contractors to hire local residents for public projects.(Chuck Crow, The Plain Dealer)
CLEVELAND, Ohio — Cleveland won another legal victory on Thursday in defense of its “Fannie Lewis” law that requires contractors on big government jobs to hire local workers.
The 8th District Ohio Court of Appeals in Cleveland unanimously upheld an earlier ruling that declared unconstitutional a 2016 state law that made it illegal for Cleveland and other cities to hire workers based on where they lived.
In a written opinion for the three-judge panel, Judge Sean C. Gallagher Jr. agreed with arguments from city attorneys that the state law, known as House Bill 180, violated local government’s home-rule rights under the Ohio Constitution.
In his conclusion, Gallagher cited a 1975 appellate opinion from the 6th District appellate court that read: “The power of local self-government and that of the general police power are constitutional grants of authority equivalent in dignity. A city may not regulate activities outside its borders, and the state may not restrict the exercise of the powers of self-government within a city.”
Dan Tierney, a spokesman for Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, said in an email that the attorney general’s office had just recently been notified of the decision, and didn’t immediately know whether the office would appeal the ruling to the Ohio Supreme Court.
Cleveland sued the state in August 2016, shortly before House Bill 180 was to have taken effect, claiming it violated home-rule powers. The city’s Fannie Lewis Law, named for the late, longtime councilwoman, requires that on projects of $100,000 or more, at least 20 percent of the work be performed by city residents. In January, Cuyahoga County Judge Michael J. Russo agreed with the city, and blocked the state from implementing the 2016 law.
Legislators from more rural parts of downstate Ohio pushed the law through the General Assembly, arguing that local hiring laws, such as the Fannie Lewis Law, hurt their constituents. They said local hiring rules shut out workers in their regions from getting construction work in big cities.
The Ohio Contractors Association and others who felt hiring laws should be banned also contended that the residency quotas often made it harder for contractors to hire the most qualified workers.
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson issued a statement on Thursday praising the decision.
“For 12 years the City of Cleveland has used the Cleveland Resident Employment Law (Fannie Lewis Law) as an effective tool to both stimulate the local economy and connect Clevelanders to employment,” Jackson wrote. “The decision by the trial court was right and I am pleased it is reaffirmed in today’s ruling.”