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Senate bill would authorize county authority on its roadways

Special to the Legal News

Published: February 15, 2017

An Ohio Senate proposal once again would allow county governments to regulate motor vehicle traffic on county and township roads.

A Northeast Ohio lawmaker introduced last week a measure that would serve as a legislative fix to the resultant fallout of a Supreme Court of Ohio ruling in 1993 that found state law did not grant express authority to county government for the regulation of its roadways.

Senate Bill 30 would authorize counties to adopt resolutions regulating motor vehicle traffic on county and township roads.

A board of county commissioners may carry out activities, such as regulating standing, stopping and parking of vehicles on county and township roads, per the bill.

Additionally, SB 30 would allow counties regulation of:

• Traffic by means of deputy sheriffs or traffic control devices;

• Processions or assemblages on the highways;

• Speed of vehicles, trackless trolleys, and streetcars in public parks;

• Vehicles and trackless trolleys from passing to the left of safety zones; and

• Use of certain roads by vehicles, trackless trolleys, and streetcars.

Counties would be granted authority to designate particular roads or highways as one-way roads or highways and to designate any highway as a through highway, which would require all vehicle traffic to stop at an intersection before entering such a highway.

"The proposed authority would be subject to the limits of a county's reasonable exercise of the police power and all other constitutional restraints on the exercise thereof," said bill sponsor Sen. John Eklund of Chardon. "Hopefully, regulation of local road usage by government institutions most familiar with those roads and local conditions, will result in government actions that more effectively address community needs."

Before the Supreme Court's decision in Geauga County Commissioners v. Munn Road Sand & Gravel, 67 Ohio St. 3d 579, Eklund said, it was generally recognized that section 4511.07 of the Ohio Revised Code authorized Ohio counties to exercise a degree of authority over the streets and roads within their jurisdictions.

The high court held for the first time that the statute was not an express grant of authority to the 88 counties, adding that "if the General Assembly wishes to grant the authority to regulate that is its prerogative, either by amending the statute or by enacting a new one."

Counties would be able to regulate the operation of bicycles, too, so long as its regulation is not fundamentally inconsistent with the uniform rules of the road prescribed by state law, the bill provides.

This would include the authority to require registration and licensing of bicycles for county and township residents.

SB 30 stipulates that any resolution enacted may not be enforced until signs giving notice of the local traffic regulations are posted upon or at the entrance to the road or highway or part of the road or highway affected.

Board review of all county resolutions should ensure that each is in compliance with the appropriate statute.

And, finally, a board may establish a penalty for any violation of a resolution adopted by the county.

Eklund previously introduced the measure as Senate Bill 57 to members during the 131st General Assembly of the Ohio Legislature.

Seven fellow senators joined Eklund as cosponsors of the bill, which had not been assigned to committee for hearing as of publication.

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