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Ohio Senate passes collective bargaining overhaul bill

Joe Podelco / Photo editor

The Ohio Senate voted 17-16 Wednesday to pass a bill that has stirred weeks of protests at the Statehouse, drawing more than 15,000 total protesters.

Senate Bill 5 would substantially overhaul a 23-year-old collective bargaining law, which gave public employees the right to bargain for their wages, hours, working conditions and benefits.

Six republicans broke from their party and joined all 10 Senate Democrats in voting against the bill, which will now be sent to the Ohio House of Representatives. Majority leader William G. Batchelder, R-Medina, plans to bring the bill for a vote by March 15, when hearings on Gov. John Kasich’s budget proposal are scheduled to begin.

The GOP holds a 59-40 majority in the House.

House minority leader Armond Budish, D-Beachwood, told The Lantern at Tuesday’s rally that he would do everything he can to keep the bill from being sent Kasich’s desk.

“I appreciate the courage and resolve members of the Senate have shown in working with me to get Ohio back on track,” Kasich said in a press release. “This is a major step forward in correcting the imbalance between taxpayers and the government unions that work for them.”

Sen. Shannon Jones, R-Springboro, who introduced the bill, said taxpayers can’t afford to continue funding increases for public employees’ benefits.

“We can only afford to pay these dedicated public employees within the constraints that taxpayers are willing and able to pay,” Jones said.

One of the republicans who voted against the bill, Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, was removed from the Insurance, Commerce and Labor Committee this morning, right before it voted 7-5 to bring the bill onto the floor.

Seitz’s replacement on the committee, Sen. Cliff Hite, R-Findlay, voted for the bill.

“Remember that old saying, ‘You can’t fight City Hall,'” Seitz asked. “Under this bill, public employees can’t talk to City Hall.”

The bill, which was amended yesterday at its largest protest yet, would prohibit all public employees from striking, replace binding arbitration with a system that places the final decision between the last, best offer by the union and the last, best offer of the public employer in the hands of a legislative body.

It also restores collective bargaining for issues like wages, hours and working conditions, but bargaining for benefits would be stripped.

Senate minority leader Capri Cafaro, D-Hubbard, said the bill “turns collective bargaining into a one-sided conversation where management always gets the last word.”

Several professors in Ohio State’s political science department could not be reached for comment.


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