By Marc Kovac
The Ohio Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments later this year to determine whether a liberal advocacy group can sue to block JobsOhio from overseeing the state’s economic-development efforts.
The state’s high court agreed in January to consider Progress Ohio’s challenge. On Thursday, justices agreed to hear both sides of the suit Nov. 6.
The issue focuses specifically on whether Progress Ohio can challenge the constitutionality of the nonprofit, which was created by lawmakers shortly after Kasich took office in 2011.
Supporters believe the nonprofit is better positioned to work with businesses considering expansions or relocations in Ohio, with executives feeling more comfortable discussing such matters behind closed doors.
But opponents, including Progress Ohio, say the setup is unconstitutional, funneling public money and resources to a private organization that is exempted from portions of the state’s open-meetings and records laws. They also say the state constitution prohibits the state from establishing such private enterprises.
Courts have not yet considered the constitutional claims, however. Earlier courts ruled Progress Ohio did not have standing to bring the legal challenge, so their claims were moot, but the Ohio Supreme Court agreed to consider the standing issue.
If justices rule in Progress Ohio’s favor, the case would go back to the lower courts for proceedings that could take years to sort out. If they rule against the plaintiffs, the case could be dead.