Portsmouth City Council voted Monday night to join a coalition to stand against House Bill 49.
City Auditor Trent Williams addressed Council explaining that a newly proposed state law and the new state biennial budget aims to take home rule, or the ability for a government to be self-governing, away from local governments. According to Williams, HB49 will require governments to give the State authority to administer and collect the net profit portion of income taxes.
In a letter addressed to Council, Williams started that the new law is “an attack on our authority to exercise all powers of local self-government (home rule) and further erosion of our operating revenue.”
The new law is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2018. Local governments such as Portsmouth will be required to pass legislation approving such changes before the law takes effect.
“I’m going to tell you right now they (the State) don’t have the authority. That’s why they are requiring us to give them the authority,” Williams stated.
Williams asked Council to consider passing an ordinance in opposition of the new law, which would authorize the City Solicitor to join a coalition of municipalities retaining special counsel to challenge the constitutionality of the State’s decision. He added that 110 cities have joined the coalition. City Council voted to pass the ordinance to join in opposition of the State as an emergency due to the timely manner in which judicial proceedings are expected to begin.
Council further voted to appropriate $4,000 for the purpose of legal fees.
The Village of New Boston was also given an option to join in the legislation. When New Boston Council met last week, they expressed support for the coalition but chose not to pay the fee to join the lawsuit in hopes that a positive outcome would benefit all local governments, whether such governments chose to pay the fee to retain counsel or not.
Portsmouth City Council also voted on a decision regarding an unrelated lawsuit.
In June, Portsmouth City Council unanimously voted to pass a resolution authorizing the City to pursue a lawsuit against wholesale distributors of opioid pain medications, distributors who helped to pump pills into a community that has since struggled with a resulting opioid epidemic. The City joined with the County who was also filing a similar lawsuit. The lawsuits claim the distributors did not do their duty in reporting distribution trends to the federal government.
Monday night, Council voted to make changes to the ordinance authorizing the lawsuit to not only target opiate distributors but manufacturers as well, explaining that during the course of the suit it was uncovered that the manufacturers knew what distributers were doing.
Council acted on various other items that have resulted from the Scioto County Commissioners decision to redesignate the Southern Ohio Port Authority (SOPA) from an economic development entity to a land transferring and bonding agency.
As a result of the County’s decision, Portsmouth is in the process of developing the Portsmouth Community Improvement Corporation (PCIC) to handle the City’s economic development.
Monday night, Council had a first reading to legislation, establishing the City’s own economic development body. They also gave a first reading on the appropriation of funds for cleanup of property at 805 Washington St., transfer of the same property to the PCIC so that the property can be sold and to terminate the City’s contract with SOPA.
Portsmouth City Council meets at 6 p.m., on the second and fourth Monday of the month in Council chambers located in the second floor of the Municipal Building on Second Street in Portsmouth.
Meeting minutes and audio recordings can be found on the City’s website at www.portsmouthoh.org.
Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.