- Associated Press - Monday, March 20, 2017

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A law taking effect Monday that allows telecommunications companies to place wireless antennas on municipal buildings is an unconstitutional violation of cities’ rights to control how they regulate such economic activity, according to lawsuits filed by multiple communities.

The complaints filed in Columbus and Cleveland say the law prohibits cities from effectively managing where wireless facilities are placed in communities by undermining their local control, known as Home Rule rights.

The law was improperly tucked into an unrelated bill that dealt with pet store regulation in the state, the lawsuits also contend.

“Ohio municipalities embrace the rapid deployment of small cell technology for our residents and businesses,” Dana McDaniel, city manager in Dublin in suburban Columbus, said Monday. However, “that must be balanced with the orderly management of public rights of way and publicly owned properties,” McDaniel said.

Rights of way include streets, alleys and other public thoroughfares.

The law raises serious questions about local governments’ rights, constitutional authority and control of city property, said Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson.

The state Attorney General’s Office is reviewing the lawsuits, spokesman Dan Tierney said.

The wireless measure was approved as part of a bigger bill passed by lawmakers late last year. That legislation began as a proposal to override local ordinances that regulate pet stores, requiring them to buy animals from shelters and rescue groups instead of high-volume breeders, which critics say often treat animals poorly.

Later, bans on bestiality and a crackdown on cockfighting and “bearbaiting” were added to the measure.

Still other amendments added the wireless antenna provision and a measure prohibiting local municipalities from setting minimum wages higher than the state level.

The Ohio Constitution’s “single subject rule” prohibits rolling unrelated bills into one piece of legislation, the lawsuits contend.

The bill contains “no common purpose or relationship between the municipal regulation of micro wireless facilities and any of the other subjects,” according to the lawsuit filed in Franklin County court.

Akron, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Lima sued, along with numerous smaller communities including Athens, Brookville, Delaware, Huber Heights, Lancaster, Mason, New Albany, Oakwood, Sharonville and Springfield.


Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus. His work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/andrew-welsh-huggins

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