Chagrined over their support for a bill that turned out to be potentially damaging to economic development in Toledo, several area lawmakers have met with Toledo officials and will meet again today in Columbus to press for changes in a bill that abolishes new Joint Economic Development Zones.
Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins said he was shocked to learn the Ohio House of Representatives had passed a bill abolishing new and renewed JEDZs without notifying Toledo of the bill’s intent.
“The understanding that we are left with is they’re going to reconvene, and they’re going to bring forward considerations to amending the bill to take the compromises to our ability to do regional economic development out of the bill, or at least modify it,” Mr. Collins said following a Friday meeting in his office.
House Bill 289, sponsored by state Rep. Kirk Schuring (R., North Canton), prohibits the creation of new JEDZs after Jan. 1, 2015. The measure passed on Feb. 26 by 89-8, including the “yes” votes of all legislators in metro Toledo.
The bill was reviewed in several hearings, and no opposition was expressed.
State Rep. Mike Sheehy (D., Oregon) helped put together the conference call meeting Friday with other lawmakers and Toledo, Oregon, and Lucas County officials to convince Mr. Schuring to accept some amendments to the bill before it is voted on in the Senate.
He and state Rep. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo) said the meeting was productive, and that Mr. Schuring was willing to make changes.
“We have some options because of Rep. Schuring’s reassurance that he did not want to adversely affect the economic development of the region,” Mr. Sheehy said.
Mr. Sheehy said the area lawmakers should have discussed the bill with area municipal leaders before voting on it. Ms. Fedor said the turn of events was “embarrassing,” and pointed out that no opposition was expressed by the Ohio Municipal League.
“This is definitely an issue that is a negative for Toledo, and we are doing everything in our power to get it reversed,” Ms. Fedor said.
Mayor Collins said he is considering hiring a lobbyist to track House Bill 289. He also said a city representative will be on hand when the Senate holds a proponent hearing on the bill Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. Opponents will have a chance to testify at a subsequent hearing.
Present at the meeting in Mr. Collins’ office, in addition to the mayor, were Oregon Administrator Michael Beazley, Lucas County Commissioner Carol Contrada, city Chief of Staff Bob Reinbolt, city Economic Development Director Matt Sapara, Lucas County policy chief Peter Ujvagi, city lawyer Eileen Granata, and Mr. Sheehy.
Participating by telephone were Ms. Fedor, state Rep. Barbara Sears (R., Monclova Township), state Sen. Randy Gardner (R., Bowling Green), and Mr. Schuring. State Rep. Michael Ashford (D., Toledo) and state Sen. Edna Brown (D., Toledo) were invited but absent, Mr. Collins said.
Toledo has four joint economic development zones, with Maumee, Rossford, and Perrysburg and Monclova townships. Two of Toledo’s JEDZs with Maumee and Monclova were established in the early 1990s and cover hundreds of acres of township land the city bought during the 1980s as part of a failed effort to expand its boundaries.
Together, Toledo’s JEDZs generate nearly $1 million in annual revenue for the city.
Mr. Schuring said he sponsored the bill after at least one instance of what he called a tax grab. The suburban Columbus cities of Bexley and Powell formed a JEDZ with Liberty Township covering an affluent neighborhood and existing businesses, bringing no new economic development to that affluent community, critics said.
Contact Tom Troy at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6058 and on Twitter @TomFTroy.