By Marc Kovac
Calling it a “historic day,” Gov. John Kasich signed into law legislation establishing a new private nonprofit that eventually will take control of the business-incentive and job-creating functions of the Ohio Department of Development.
House Bill 1 was the first legislation to reach Kasich’s desk, and he signed it quickly — just two days after lawmakers in the Ohio House and Senate gave their approval.
“It will allow us to move at the speed of business,” Kasich said during a signing ceremony at the Statehouse, where he was joined by Republican leaders of the House and Senate. “And it’s important that we move at the speed of business for one reason: People need jobs; with jobs comes hope.”
He added later, “Today is a day that is a very big step in restoring the vibrancy of our state.”
House Bill 1 passed with support of Republican members of the Legislature, plus most of the Democratic members of the Ohio Senate and two Democrats in the Ohio House.
Supporters have said the bill is a first step in the process of moving the economic-development programming of the Ohio Department of Development into the private nonprofit JobsOhio, which they say will be better suited to react to businesses thinking about expanding.
JobsOhio would be overseen by a nine-member board, including Kasich and eight other individuals he will appoint.
He told reporters Friday that Mark Kvamme, a longtime friend and current director of the Ohio Department of Development, would be one of the board members.
Additional legislation will have to be passed by lawmakers later this year to complete the transfer of state programs to the new nonprofit.
As a private entity, JobsOhio would not be subject to the state’s open meetings and records laws, ethics and conflict of interest rules or other requirements that generally affect state agencies.
The setup prompted concern from the Ohio Newspaper Association and other public meeting and records advocates. But Kasich tried to quell those concerns Friday.
“To the members of the media, there’s no trapdoors or secret programs,” the governor said. “You will have access to what happens in JobsOhio. We want to maintain privacy when it is appropriate only from the standpoint of being able to do a successful negotiation, to create jobs and not put ourselves in a position to compete against ourselves.