CLEVELAND, Ohio – A Cuyahoga County judge ruled Tuesday that the state overstepped its constitutional authority when it sought to thwart Cleveland’s requirement that city residents get to work on public projects and permanently blocked the state law. 

The law, known as HB 180, was enacted by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. John Kasich last May. It would have barred cities from establishing local hiring regulations in contracts for public improvements such as those in Cleveland’s Fannie Lewis Law.  

Cleveland sued the state last August, shortly before the law was to take effect, claiming it violated home rule powers guaranteed in the Ohio Constitution. 

On Tuesday, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Michael J. Russo granted the city’s request for a permanent injunction that blocks the state from ever enforcing the law. 

You can read Russo’s ruling below. Mobile users click here.  

Mayor Frank Jackson announced that the city had won the court case at an event Tuesday evening, but didn’t comment further. State officials did not have an immediate comment. 

What is the Fannie Lewis Law? 

Fannie Lewis 

Named for the longtime Cleveland Councilwoman Fannie Lewis, the city ordinance was enacted more than a decade ago to help combat poverty and to ensure that residents participate in the city’s economic development – and share in its prosperity. 

Lewis, who died in 2008 at the age of 82, was long known for championing the interests of the residents of Cleveland’s neighborhoods.  

The Fannie Lewis law requires that on projects of $100,000 or more, at least 20 percent of construction hours be performed by Cleveland residents. At least 4 percent of that work must be done by residents considered to be low-income. Failure to meet the requirements results in a fine equal to 1/8 of 1 percent of the total contract cost for each percentage by which the contractor misses the goal. 

Why did the state enact its law? 


Legislators from more rural parts of Ohio downstate argued that local hiring laws, such as the Fannie Lewis Law, hurt their constituents by creating an un-level playing field. 

Rep. Ron Maag, a Lebanon Republican who has since left the legislature, introduced HB 180.  He and Sen. Joe Uecker, a Republican from Clermont County, argued that 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 such quotas often make it harder for contractors to hire the most qualified workers. 

What did the judge rule? 

In arguments before Russo, the state sought to defend the law as one governing the “comfort, health, safety and general welfare of all employees.” A provision in the Ohio Constitution grants the legislature exclusive authority to enact such laws. 

But Russo noted that the law enacted by the state does no such thing. 

“There are no protections afforded to employees under H.B. 180 and no portion of the bill relates to the comfort, health, safety or general welfare of these contractors,” Russo said. “Rather, HB 180 seeks only to dictate the terms by which municipalities may contract for workers.” 

The state law, Russo said, “is piecemeal in both its intent and application.” 

Its enactment violated Cleveland’s home rule authority, Russo wrote, because it did not serve as a general law to apply uniformly across the state. Rather, the state unconstitutionally sought “to abrogate the city’s self-rule through passage of HB 180.” 

What happens next? 

That remains to be seen.  

The state could appeal to the 8th District Ohio Court of Appeals. A spokeswoman for Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said the state was at this point reviewing the decision.

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