Ohio SB 5 veto referendum certification marks the beginning of monumental political duel

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July 22, 2011


By Al Ortiz

COLUMBUS, Ohio: Things are about to get heated in the Buckeye State, as the Senate Bill 5 veto referendum proposal was certified on July 21, 2011 by the Ohio Secretary of State.

Of the more than 1.3 million signatures submitted by supporters, the secretary of state's office certified 915,456 for an approximately 70.5% validation rate. The Ballot Board, which is given the responsibility of crafting ballot language, is set to meet in early August.[1]

The law under the state's limelight, Senate Bill 5, would limit collective bargaining for public employees in the state. Most notably, SB 5 prevents unions from charging "fair share" dues to employees who opt out.

The legislation would also impact the state's 400,000 public workers, restricting their ability to strike and collectively bargain. As it stands, the bill would only permit public employees to collectively bargain for wages, preventing them from collectively bargaining for health insurance and pensions. It would also prohibit all public employees from striking and could increase employee contributions for pensions and healthcare.

A quick summary of the measure's provisions can be found here.

We Are Ohio was the political action committee behind the effort to place the proposed repeal on the ballot. Ohio Senate Minority Leader Capri Cafaro stated about SB 5: "The public sees Senate Bill 5 for what it really is -- a highly political assault on the rights of middle-class workers. The sad truth is this legislation would leave public employees with fewer rights to negotiate on issues such as safety equipment than their counterparts in the private sector."

The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) launched a campaign supporting the veto referendum called "Proud Ohio Workers", a campaign made up of local business owners, among others, who believe public employees should have rights to collective bargaining.

On the other side of the battle lines, according to reports, lobbyist and political consultant Vaughn Flasher is said to have been chosen to lead the campaign to keep Senate Bill 5 a law. Paperwork was filed with the Ohio Secretary of State on May 31, 2011 to establish the committee in support of Senate Bill 5. The campaign is called Building a Better Ohio.[2][3]

John Kasich is also expected to be a key figure in the campaign against the referendum. He argues that the proposed law is not an attempt to eliminate unions, but rather is aimed at restoring "balance to the system." Kasich expects the bill to help close the state's budget gap. Other proponents of SB 5 say that the law is needed to let state and local governments to better control their costs.[4]

In a separate campaign, the Ohio chapter of the Washington-based Americans for Prosperity is raising money in order to promote Senate Bill 5. According to Rebecca Heimlich, state director of the group: “We’ll be working together, but not technically together. We’ll be sharing information and working toward the same goal. We’ve had our plans for a while and have started fund-raising. We talked to [supporters of Senate Bill 5] a couple of weeks ago, and we will continue to communicate."[3]

Polls have also been conducted concerning Senate Bill 5. For more information, click here.

See also

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