The Ohio Senate has approved an amended version of a bill that had put restrictions on municipalities and townships wanting to form Joint Economic Development Zones.
The bill passed by a vote of 30-2 Wednesday.
In February, the House of Representatives approved a bill that ended the authority of municipalities to form JEDZs by themselves or with townships on Jan. 1 2015. The House version also prohibited the renewal of existing JEDZ agreements after Dec. 31, 2014.
It also required at least half of any income tax revenue generated within a JEDZ formed by a municipality and a township be used for public services, facilities or improvements until they’ve been completed.
Senator Edna Brown, D- Toledo, who voted for the bill last week, said she’s confident the amended bill will satisfy the concerns officials expressed last month during a forum she hosted with Sen. Gardner.
“When HB 289 first came to the Senate, many communities in Northwest Ohio, including the City of Toledo, expressed serious concerns about its potential impact on their established and successful JEDZ agreements. After working with the bill’s sponsor, Representative Kirk Schuring, and my colleague Senator Randy Gardner, I am happy to report that the bill was modified to address those concerns,” she said. “I believe HB 289 strikes a balance between preventing abuse and allowing metro areas like Toledo to continue utilizing these important economic development tools.”
Supporters of the earlier version of the bill in the House testified that JEDZs formed recently in central and southern Ohio were designed more for tapping existing income tax revenues than fostering economic development.
Sen. Gardner also voted for the bill.
The Senate bill renames JEDZs established within municipalities “municipal utility districts” and leaves unchanged the regulations covering them in current law. The MUDs are not subject to the proposed JEDZ sunset.
About 100 local officials attended the forum hosted by Gardner and Brown. Almost all who testified said JEDZs were needed for economic development and helped local governments avoid annexation battles.