Dayton employees will be watching this case as the Ohio Supreme Court weighs in on the rights of cities to establish “home rule”- or the rights of the State to overturn legislation enacted by popular vote. The issue is if cities can require employees to live within the city limits. Dayton passed and reaffirmed this rule at the ballot box much to the dismay of the police and fire unions who claim it limits their “freedom.”
From the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
Cleveland will get a chance after all to argue in the Ohio Supreme Court on behalf of its residency requirement for employees.
The court on Friday allowed the city to join the city of Lima on Tuesday when the court will hear oral arguments on a lawsuit questioning whether a state law that trumps local residency laws is unconstitutional.
The court will hear two separate cases, the other brought by the city of Akron, that challenge the state law. Two separate state appeals courts have already sided with the cities.
The cases have slightly different approaches but the same bottom line: the claim that a state law striking down local residency rules for safety employees, like police officers, violates the state’s home rule provision.
While the Lima case largely centers on a home rule argument, the Akron case also makes the argument that banning residency rules has serious negative consequences for public policy.
The cases also differ in that Lima’s residency rule was adopted by its city council in 2000, while the Akron rule was adopted by popular vote in 1978 and upheld by voters in 1995….
In 2006, the state legislature passed a bill that eventually became law in May of that year that said municipalities could not require their employees to reside in a specific area as a condition of their employment.
While repealing this rule would have less impact now than when it was passed and the city had a much larger workforce, the reality is- most of these employees have already segregated themselves into Forest Ridge and Quail Hollow where they live in the City of Dayton, but are within the Huber Heights or Riverside School District. They would still pay the 2.25% city income tax, but there would be a drastic readjustment of home values in these areas. We’d also lose income taxes from spouses who may work in other municipalities.
Residency is a political football- constantly an issue with the more conservative police and fire unions, while mostly ignored by the more blue collar and democratic leaning AFSCME. Since the issue only affects about 2,300 employees, it’s not enough to sway any candidate over to be against it- when it’s always passed by a strong majority of the voters.
From a PR standpoint, and a hiring standpoint, it may cost us some better candidates. However, other practices like not accepting lateral transfers from other police or fire departments is actually hurting much more- and this is an issue the unions won’t budge on.
No matter how the Ohio Supreme Court rules, this will end up going to the US Supreme Court, so no one should be holding their breath. Victor Pate, the city electrician who tested the law immediately, is happily living and working in Florida. It will be a long time before he gets an answer on this- and his opportunity to collect money from the city for unlawful termination if the cities lose.