Cuyahoga County judge strikes down law restricting cities' right to set minimum wage, limit cell
CLEVELAND -- A Cuyahoga County judge ruled Thursday in favor of Cleveland and other cities challenging a state law that restricted municipalities' ability to control the placement of wireless cell equipment in public spaces.
Common Pleas Judge Steven E. Gall found amendments to Senate Bill 331, signed by Gov. John Kasich in December 2016, violated the Ohio Constitution's rule limiting bills to a single subject. Cleveland officials called the ruling a win, even though it struck down a provision city council members sought to block an effort to raise the city's minimum wage.
The Ohio Attorney General's office has not yet decided whether it will appeal Gall's decision, a spokesman said Thursday. The state has appealed similar rulings in Franklin and Hamilton counties; a Summit County court ruled in the state's favor.
The bill began as a way to prevent local governments from enacting stricter rules on how pet stores could obtain dogs and cats and was dubbed the "Petland bill." It became a vehicle in last year's lame duck session for several seemingly unrelated amendments.
Those amendments included a provision allowing cellular companies to place micro-wireless or "small cell" equipment such as antennae and boxes on street signs, traffic signals, utility poles and other public structures. The bill also prohibited municipalities from setting a local minimum wage and work conditions and banned bestiality.
"Prohibitions against pet sales, animal fighting and sexual acts with animals share nothing in common with small cell wireless facilities and equipment or statewide minimum wage provisions and work condition policies," Gall wrote in his opinion. "Such a combination is a classic example of logrolling which is the exact practice the one-subject rule seeks to prevent and is contrary to fair legislative process."
Gall said the animal welfare-provisions should remain law, but the micro-wireless, minimum wage and work conditions amendments should not.
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson opposed the micro-wireless part of the bill and the city, along with more than 80 other Ohio municipalities, sued the state. Similar lawsuits were filed in Franklin, Hamilton, Lucas and Summit counties.
"The bill was an attempt to erode our constitutional rights as a city," Jackson said in a statement. "This is a victory for Cleveland and every municipality that would have been impacted by this bill had it not been struck down."
In June, a Franklin County judge also struck down the law, saying it violated the single-subject rule.
"Fostering good legislation is the reason the Ohio Constitution contains a one-subject provision, and why it requires a single subject to be 'clearly expressed in its title,'" Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Richard A. Frye wrote in his opinion. "Here, a blatant disunity exists between matters engrafted at the last minute on to S.B. 331. No rational reason for their combination can be discerned."
This article originally ran on cleveland.com.