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Published: Sunday, 8/12/2012

High court asked to settle legal status of JobsOhio


COLUMBUS -- Ohio officials hope a complaint filed in the state's highest court could help resolve legal concerns about a new private job-creation agency and clear the way for the agency to get rights to the state liquor business and use the profits.

The budget and commerce departments had agreed to transfer those rights to Jobs- Ohio for 25 years in a deal worth as much as $1.4 billion for the state, which gets the first $500 million when the transfer occurs.

The budget and JobsOhio leaders signed the transfer agreement last week, but Director of Commerce David Goodman declined to join them. The complaint filed Friday by JobsOhio asks the court to force Mr. Goodman to act on the agreement.

"We need to spend every minute of every day focused on economic development, and let's get this taken care of so we can move forward," Mark Kvamme, JobsOhio president, said.

Mr. Goodman said that he fully supports JobsOhio but didn't feel he could move forward because constitutional concerns raised about the entity and the transfer deal haven't been addressed by the Ohio Supreme Court.

JobsOhio officials said they're confident it's constitutional. Mr. Goodman agreed, but he noted the decision is up to the court, not him.

"It is imperative to give the Supreme Court the opportunity to address the constitutional questions to clear up any uncertainty and to allow the state to move forward with the transaction and JobsOhio to maximize its resources available for job creation and economic development," Mr. Goodman said.

The transfer process has been delayed in part by a lawsuit by the liberal group ProgressOhio and two Democratic lawmakers, Rep. Dennis Murray of Sandusky and Sen. Mike Skindell of Lakewood, challenging whether it is constitutional to turn public money over to a private entity.

The 10th District Court of Appeals in Columbus upheld a judge's decision to dismiss the challenge on the grounds that opponents didn't have legal standing.

ProgressOhio appealed the decision to the state Supreme Court.

Mr. Kvamme said the issues have kept JobsOhio from fully devoting its attention to job creation and economic growth, and that the new complaint is a step toward getting back on track.

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