Ohio Lawmakers Consider Bill to Localize State Agency Licensure Appeals

State lawmakers are considering a bill that would transfer the conflict over state licenses suspended or repealed to local county courts as opposed to the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas.

Senate Bill (SB) 21, sponsored by State Senators Rob McColley (R-Napoleon) and Michele Reynolds (R-Canal Winchester), would provide legal challenges to licenses issued by the Ohio Casino Control Commission, the State Medical Board, the State Chiropractic Board, the Board of Nursing, and the Liquor Control Commission to take place in the county where that person or company is based.

According to Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima), it is “onerous” for the person to pay for their lawyer to go to Franklin County from another state region to appeal the license decision.

“It’s really a matter of all of the power being centralized in one county. And that’s not fair to most of the people in the state of Ohio. This is just basically a matter of basic fairness to people in 87 counties all over the state of Ohio so that they can go to their local court,” Huffman said.

According to Reynolds, this measure will decrease expenses and the difficulty of conducting business in the state.

“This also leads to lost productivity caused by pulling someone away from their place of business for a prolonged period of time. Not only will this bill reduce costs, it will also reduce the complexity of doing business in Ohio,” Reynolds said.

According to McColley, the legislation will not affect the jurisdiction of the Ohio Court of Claims to hear suits for damages against the State or its agencies. It will not affect the provisions of SB 22 that allow citizens to sue the state or its agencies in their home county.

Jurisdiction will remain in Franklin County for cases involving non-Ohio residents or businesses with no Ohio place of business.

McColley continued that the bill will allow for the Speaker of the House and the Senate President to retain their legal counsel to represent the House, the Senate, or the General Assembly. It will also allow the governor to do the same. It also specifies that the General Assembly and each chamber may intervene as a matter of right at any time in any activity that involves a challenge to the Ohio Constitution or laws of Ohio.

“While it is true that current law is a convenience for state agencies who get to defend their decisions in Franklin County, it inconveniences citizens and businesses aggrieved by agency actions by requiring them to travel to Columbus. We need to consider business owners from across the state who have an extra time commitment and expense to travel to and from Franklin County,” McColley said.

Governor Mike DeWine vetoed a similar bill in December, House Bill (HB) 286, sponsored by State Representative Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati). The bill would have also allowed legal challenges for certain agency orders to occur in the county where a business or a person resides. Although DeWine claimed to be receptive to the notion, he expressed concern about shifting legal disputes from Franklin County, where the court has had time to establish a precedent.

“We have a whole body of law that has been developed case by case, and that has been, you know, for a number of years, all Franklin County. We rely on precedent which gives people the opportunity to predict and have some surety of how cases are and what the real law is. So, we have some concern about moving it out with then no precedent,” DeWine said.

The bill had its first hearing in Senate Judiciary Committee, and both the Senate and the House must approve it before it can go to DeWine for signature.

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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Rob McColley” by Rob McColley. Photo “Michele Reynolds” by Michele Reynolds. Background Photo “Ohio Statehouse” by Jsjessee. CC BY-SA 2.0.




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