Question: What exactly does “home rule” mean for municipalities in Ohio?
To respond: Home Rule is a special authority granted to municipalities (such as cities and towns) by Article XVIII of the Ohio Constitution. It allows municipalities to make laws and take actions for which the Ohio Revised Code does not specifically give authority. Local self-government essentially gives municipalities more power and flexibility.
There are three distinct self-government powers: the local self-government power, the exercise of police powers, and the ownership and operation of public services. The power of local self-government allows municipalities to regulate matters solely related to the governance and administration of their internal affairs.
This includes the form of government, the internal organization, the control and use of certain public property, the procedure for the sale of municipal property, the regulation of municipal streets, and the salaries of municipal officers and employees.
Local self-government also gives municipalities police power, which includes the power to make regulations for the general welfare of the municipality, including its public health, safety and morals. Examples include zoning, animal control and traffic regulations. To take full advantage of the authority of self-government, a city or town will adopt a charter.
A: A municipal charter is a document that outlines how a city or town is run and how power is divided. Any municipality can develop and adopt or amend a charter for its government. The charter is sometimes described as the constitution of a city or town and must be adopted by the voters of the municipality.
A municipality does not need a charter to have home rule authority, but charters allow municipalities to gain additional freedom from the state legislature to manage local affairs as far as possible under the autonomy provision.
Unchartered municipalities are more limited in their use of home rule authority as they must follow one of four statutory forms of government, while chartered municipalities can deviate from Ohio law at both substantively and procedurally. In addition, the courts show greater deference to the self-governing authority of a chartered municipality.
Q: When does a municipality’s use of home rule go too far?
A: There are some limits on when a municipality can use its police powers to pass an ordinance that conflicts with state law. If the state law is considered “general” law, then the state law takes precedence over a local ordinance. For example, if you are charged with careless operation of a motor vehicle, it could be a local first degree misdemeanor with the possibility of a $1,000 fine and up to 180 days in jail. jail.
Under state code, however, reckless operation is only a misdemeanor with no jail time and a fine of up to $150. So if you are charged with a first degree misdemeanor under a city code and the same offense is only a minor misdemeanor under the state code, you can request a negotiation of plea and agree to plead guilty under the state code section.
Generally, courts determine that a law is “general” when it: (1) forms part of a comprehensive state-wide statute; (2) applies to all parts of the state and operates uniformly throughout the state; (3) provides effective police, health, or similar regulations and standards rather than merely granting or broadly limiting a municipality’s legislative power to create police, health, or similar regulations; and (4) prescribes a rule of conduct for citizens in general. The Ohio Supreme Court recently found local laws that attempted to further regulate guns and oil and gas drilling beyond statewide statutes to be unconstitutional.
Q: Why is “home rule” important to me as a resident of a city or town in Ohio?
A: If you live in a chartered municipality with full self-governing authority, your local government is more easily able to meet the needs of residents and reduce state legislative interference in local affairs. Local self-government also gives municipalities more flexibility in determining the form and administrative organization of local government, and allows its residents to have a greater voice in determining local policies.
For example, local self-government allows residents to have the option of electing members of the city council and having the city administration headed by an elected mayor or a hired manager/administrator. Local self-government also allows municipalities to create their own zoning regulations and allows flexibility in how mayors’ courts are run.
This “Law You Can Use” consumer legal information column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. It was prepared by Philip Hartmann, an attorney in the Columbus office of Frost Brown Todd LLC. The articles appearing in this column are intended to provide general information about the law. This is not legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific legal issue, readers are urged to seek the advice of an attorney. Law You Can Use is published weekly in The Logan Daily News. The opinions of this column do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper.