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Home Rule Authority in Ohio Municipalities

Ohio cities have flexibility under Ohio law to establish laws in accordance with the powers of local self-government, otherwise known as Home Rule Authority. The relevant provisions of the Ohio Constitution were enacted in 1912 and read:

Municipal Powers of Local Self-Government. §3 Municipalities shall have authority to exercise all powers of local self-government and to adopt and enforce within their limits such local police, sanitary and other similar regulations, as are not in conflict with general laws.

Home rule; Municipal Charter. §7 Any municipality may frame and adopt or amend a charter for its government and may, subject to the provisions of section 3 of this article, exercise thereunder all powers of local self-government.

Based on these constitutional allowances, cities can legally establish laws on matters of local self-government that may conflict with state laws as long as the state laws in question are not "general laws" or "laws of a general nature." There is no hard and fast rule in Ohio to establish what is a "matter of local self-government" or what is a "general law."

The Ohio Supreme Court, in defining matters of local self-government has stated: "If the result affects only the municipality itself, with no extraterritorial effects, the subject is clearly within the power of local self-government and is a matter for the determination of the municipality. However, if the result is not so confined it becomes a matter for the General Assembly." Beachwood v. Board of Elections, 167 Ohio St. 369, 371 (1958).

"The words 'general laws' as set forth in Section 3 of Article XVIII of the Ohio Constitution mean statutes setting forth police, sanitary or other similar regulations and not statutes which purport only to grant or to limit the legislative powers of a municipal corporation to adopt or enforce police, sanitary or other similar regulations." West Jefferson v. Robinson, 1 Ohio St. 2d 113, 118 (1965).

The Ohio Supreme Court applied a Home Rule analysis most recently on February 17, 2015 when the Court ruled that municipalities cannot, under Home Rule rights, regulate oil and gas drilling because the General Assembly of Ohio enacted a general statewide regulation in 2004. State ex rel. Morrison, Law Dir.; City of Munroe Falls v. Beck Energy Corp., 2015-Ohio-485. The city of Munroe Falls had permitting regulations in place before the state law was enacted, but once a conflicting state regulation was in place, the local regulations could not stand because the state law was intended as a general law.

The General Assembly has also enacted laws of general statewide concern with regard to gun regulations. The Ohio Supreme Court explained that statewide laws on guns were necessary to save gun owners from facing a "confusing patchwork" of inconsistent licensing and possession regulations.

Certain political subdivisions in Ohio can enact a charter in accordance with the Ohio Constitution to further establish the political subdivision's rights and powers of local self-government. Arguably, any Ohio municipality has the full powers of local self-government with or without a formally enacted charter; however, courts undeniably show greater deference to the Home Rule authority of a chartered municipality.

Ohio cities have flexibility under Ohio law to establish laws in accordance with the powers of local self-government, otherwise known as Home Rule Authority. The relevant provisions of the Ohio Constitution were enacted in 1912 and read:

Municipal Powers of Local Self-Government. §3 Municipalities shall have authority to exercise all powers of local self-government and to adopt and enforce within their limits such local police, sanitary and other similar regulations, as are not in conflict with general laws.

Home rule; Municipal Charter. §7 Any municipality may frame and adopt or amend a charter for its government and may, subject to the provisions of section 3 of this article, exercise thereunder all powers of local self-government.

Based on these constitutional allowances, cities can legally establish laws on matters of local self-government that may conflict with state laws as long as the state laws in question are not "general laws" or "laws of a general nature." There is no hard and fast rule in Ohio to establish what is a "matter of local self-government" or what is a "general law."

The Ohio Supreme Court, in defining matters of local self-government has stated: "If the result affects only the municipality itself, with no extraterritorial effects, the subject is clearly within the power of local self-government and is a matter for the determination of the municipality. However, if the result is not so confined it becomes a matter for the General Assembly." Beachwood v. Board of Elections, 167 Ohio St. 369, 371 (1958).

"The words 'general laws' as set forth in Section 3 of Article XVIII of the Ohio Constitution mean statutes setting forth police, sanitary or other similar regulations and not statutes which purport only to grant or to limit the legislative powers of a municipal corporation to adopt or enforce police, sanitary or other similar regulations." West Jefferson v. Robinson, 1 Ohio St. 2d 113, 118 (1965).

The Ohio Supreme Court applied a Home Rule analysis most recently on February 17, 2015 when the Court ruled that municipalities cannot, under Home Rule rights, regulate oil and gas drilling because the General Assembly of Ohio enacted a general statewide regulation in 2004. State ex rel. Morrison, Law Dir.; City of Munroe Falls v. Beck Energy Corp., 2015-Ohio-485. The city of Munroe Falls had permitting regulations in place before the state law was enacted, but once a conflicting state regulation was in place, the local regulations could not stand because the state law was intended as a general law.

The General Assembly has also enacted laws of general statewide concern with regard to gun regulations. The Ohio Supreme Court explained that statewide laws on guns were necessary to save gun owners from facing a "confusing patchwork" of inconsistent licensing and possession regulations.

Certain political subdivisions in Ohio can enact a charter in accordance with the Ohio Constitution to further establish the political subdivision's rights and powers of local self-government. Arguably, any Ohio municipality has the full powers of local self-government with or without a formally enacted charter; however, courts undeniably show greater deference to the Home Rule authority of a chartered municipality.

By: Amy N. Blankenship.

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