On February 26th, the Ohio House of Representatives passed Substitute House Bill 289. If also passed by the Senate and signed into law, the bill would phase out Joint Economic Development Zones (JEDZs), a statutory creature relied upon by many local communities to promote economic development by drawing upon municipal and township cooperation.
Unlike prior versions of the legislation, however, Sub. H.B. 289 does not substantially affect Joint Economic Development Districts (JEDDs). Among other things, the new version eliminated provisions that would have required written consent of each property owner and lessee in territory proposed to be included within a JEDD and that would have imposed territorial contiguity and revenue use restrictions with respect to JEDDs (See our Nov 1, 2013, blog post for more information).
As passed by the House, Sub. H.B. 289 would eliminate the authority of municipalities and townships to create JEDZs, effective January 1, 2015. It also would de-authorize the renewal of existing JEDZ contracts after December 31, 2014. The bill further requires the contracting parties of existing and proposed JEDZs to create a review council to monitor the performance of the JEDZ. The county auditor, an economic development organization representative, a member of the public and the owners of the four largest businesses within the territory (measured by number of employees) would make up the seven-member review council. They also would have authority to approve any new JEDZ contract or substantial amendment to a JEDZ contract before it could take effect. Finally, Sub. H.B. 289 provides specific authority for owners or employees of two or more businesses jointly to bring a suit to invalidate or suspend the income tax in a JEDZ.