Ohio Townships look to Unconstitutionally Tax Homeowners

On September 9, the 1851 Center asked the Supreme Court of Ohio to review, and stop, Hamilton Township’s implementation of a tax on new homes.

Ohio’s townships cannot levy taxes. This has made them a popular destination for Ohioans who wish to flee the high costs of city living. However, Hamilton Township (in southwest Ohio) has imposed a charge that, if allowed to stand, would change this. The township has simply labeled its $6,000 tax on new homeowners and developers an “impact fee.”

“This case is about whether Ohio townships may tax citizens, simply by labeling those taxes ‘fees,’ even though Ohio law denies townships this privilege,” 1851 Center Executive Director Maurice Thompson wrote in the brief. “Accordingly, this case raises several issues of great importance: (1) where the line is drawn, in Ohio, between what constitutes a ‘tax’ and what constitutes a ‘fee;’ and (2) whether Ohio townships have some form of inherent police powers beyond those specified in the Ohio Revised Code, or instead, are creatures of limited and defined powers.”

1851 Center, September 29, 2010

Ohio Counties Can’t Avoid Public Meetings Law; Hold Secret Meetings on Million-Dollar Contracts

In an effort against public corruption in Cincinnati, the 1851 Center filed an amicus brief in the First District Court of Appeals to stop secret meetings amongst Hamilton County Commissioners.

To prevent sweetheart deals and ensure open and objective debate, Ohio’s county commissioners must discuss important public business in public meetings. Cincinnati residents were alarmed to discover Hamilton County Commissioners met behind closed doors to discuss a multi-million dollar contract associated with Cincinnati’s government-planned riverfront development.

The commissioners, which include David Pepper, who is running for Ohio Auditor, claimed they were entitled to meet in secret because Mr. Pepper and Commissioner Todd Portune are attorneys, and were giving legal advice to the remaining commissioner at the meeting.

“A fundamental right underlying our government in Ohio is that Ohioans have a right to know and understand the actions taken by elected officials. This principle is reflected in the Ohio Constitution and Revised Code,” according to the 1851 Center’s brief.

The case awaits oral arguments and the court’s decision.

Source: 1851 Center, September 29, 2010

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