Lawsuit over JobsOhio legislation moves to Ohio SC

Jessica M. Karmasek Jul. 31, 2012, 3:10pm


COLUMBUS, Ohio (Legal Newsline) - A self-described non-profit, non-partisan legal center submitted an amicus brief to the Ohio Supreme Court Monday in support of Progress Ohio's ongoing lawsuit over Gov. John Kasich's JobsOhio legislation.

In the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law's 15-page brief, it argues that Progress Ohio and other left-wing challengers must be found to have taxpayer and "public interest" standing to challenge the constitutionality of the legislation.

On Friday, Progress Ohio appealed to the state Supreme Court, asking it to determine if the legislation violates the Ohio Constitution.

The left-leaning group contends JobsOhio sets up a special public-private corporation to invest public funds in select private corporations without transparency.

It argues these features violate the state constitution's prohibitions on corporate welfare and state spending and indebtedness, and the state's General Assembly has unconstitutionally attempted to insulate the legislation from judicial scrutiny by including a provision that essentially prohibits any legal actions from being brought to challenge it.

In its amicus brief, the 1851 Center argues that if the state's high court gives a "pass" to lower court rulings that Progress Ohio does not possess standing in this case, the Court will essentially bar all Ohioans from enforcing the state constitution's stringent spending, debt and "anti-corporate-welfare" provisions, effectively rending these provisions unenforceable.

However, the conservative organization takes no position on the substantive issue at this stage -- the constitutionality of the legislation.

Thus far, two lower courts have refused to consider the constitutional claims, concluding that Progress Ohio has no right to sue in court because it does not have a sufficiently "personal stake" in enforcement of the state constitution and because enforcement of the constitution's spending, debt and corporate welfare limits are not a sufficiently important public interest to warrant an exemption from this personal stake requirement.

"While we may not agree with Progress Ohio's politics, we certainly believe that they, like all Ohioans, must have standing to defend the Ohio Constitution in court, if that document is to remain enforceable," Maurice Thompson, executive director of the 1851 Center, said in a statement Monday.

"By requiring a 'personal stake' in a matter upon which all Ohioans are harmed relatively equally, such as state spending, indebtedness and corporate welfare, Ohio courts are pulling the rug out from under these key constitutional limitations on government and placing their own preference for abstaining from the hard work of enforcing the constitution above them.

"Such decisions cannot stand, if these important limits on government are to be enforceable going forward."

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