State lawmakers came very close to passing legislation last year to prohibit municipalities from imposing local hiring quotas on those who want to compete for city contracts. In testimony before the House Government Affairs Committee last week, ACEC Ohio Executive Director Don Mader urged legislators to finish the job.
Last fall, the Ohio Senate passed SB 152 and the House passed HB 180, identical bills that would prohibit a public authority from requiring a contractor, including a design professional firm, to employ a certain percentage of individuals from the geographic area of the public authority for the construction or professional design of a public improvement.
Design and construction industry organizations sought introduction of these bills last year after the city of Akron announced it would require companies seeking contracts for the city's combined sewer separation program to employ at least 31 percent Akron city residents. For design firms, the city's requirements are even more onerous: at least 66 percent of all hours worked by an engineering firm on a project must be performed by "employees paying city of Akron income tax."
Although both bills passed in their respective chambers, neither received further consideration. That stalemate ended last Wednesday when the House committee heard proponent and opponent testimony on the Senate bill.
In his lead testimony for the proponents, Mader told the committee that local residency requirements force employers to "discriminate for or against employees based merely on their place of residence.
"The Ohio Supreme Court has already ruled that a municipality can't dictate where its employees live, yet some municipalities apparently believe they are justified in dictating where the employees of third parties must live."
If the trend toward adoption of municipal residency requirements continues, real damage will be done to Ohio's economy as construction and design firms find it harder and harder to work across jurisdictional lines.
Worst of all, such residency requirements conflict with Ohio's Qualifications-Based Selection law for engineers and architects, Mader noted in his testimony. Public authorities must award design contracts "based on a defined set of criteria – and where the employees of competing engineering firms live is not listed as a qualification factor that may be considered in the evaluation process."
Legislators are not expected to take final action on the legislation until the lame duck period that follows the November 8 general election.