State Rep. Derek Merrin (R., Monclova Township) owns residential rental properties in Toledo and elsewhere in the region. Good for him. He has every right.
But Mr. Merrin tried to quietly add a provision to the Ohio budget bill moving through the state House that would undermine the city’s authority to enforce lead ordinances. His amendment would instead leave all lead-related health regulations to the Ohio Department of Health, which doesn’t have lead-safe measures like Toledo’s.
Toledo’s ordinance — which doesn’t require lead abatement and has even been revised to make it even more palatable to landlords — requires rental buildings built before 1978 with up to four units, or a day care center, to be certified “lead-safe” in order to rent to tenants. Property owners who don’t comply can be fined $50 a day, up to $10,000.
Mr. Merrin, who didn’t join any of the discussion about the ordinance when it was being debated locally, responded to criticism of his budget amendment with a written statement in which he called Toledo’s ordinance unconstitutional and discriminatory. The ordinance is neither of those things. It is necessary to begin to protect children who can be permanently impaired by lead poisoning from the paint in many of Toledo’s older homes.
City council members, property owners, local health officials, and advocates for tenants and low-income residents worked hard over many months to draft and revise Toledo’s ordinance so it would be effective and fair. Slipping an amendment into a budget bill to nullify that is an insult to their good-faith efforts, not to mention a violation of home rule.
Mr. Merrin also argued that lead-related regulations should be managed by the state health department so they can be uniform across the state. He is onto something there. Toledo’s modest ordinance is the only one of its kind in the state right now. The ODH should use it as a model and seek to put it in place statewide.
Meanwhile, the Ohio House should strike Mr. Merrin’s self-serving amendment from the budget bill and stop trying to negate Toledo’s right to protect vulnerable children.
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