Ohio Senate passes bill to restrict public unionsThe Republican-controlled Ohio Senate has passed a measure that would restrict the collective bargaining rights of roughly 350,000 teachers, university professors, firefighters, police officers and other public employees.
By: Ann Sanner, Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Republican-controlled Ohio Senate has passed a measure that would restrict the collective bargaining rights of roughly 350,000 teachers, university professors, firefighters, police officers and other public employees.
Senators passed the legislation on a 17-16 vote today, with all 'yes' votes coming from the GOP. Six Republicans voted against the bill.
The bill establishes fines and jail time for those who participate in strikes. Unionized workers could negotiate wages, hours and certain work conditions — but not health care, sick time or pension benefits.
The measure now goes to the state House, where the GOP holds a 59-40 majority.
Republican Gov. John Kasich (KAY'-sik) has said he supports the effort.
Lawmakers have approved changes to the bill that include banning public workers from striking, and establishing fines and jail time for those who do participate in walkouts. Unionized workers could negotiate wages, hours and safety conditions but not health care, sick time or pension benefits. It would affect teachers, university professors, firefighters, police officers and other public workers.
GOP State Sen. Shannon Jones, who sponsored the bill, had said it "gives power back to the taxpayer and restores flexibility to the management of their hard-earned dollars."
Committee approval came after GOP state Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, was replaced on the panel by state Sen. Cliff Hite of Findlay, a move that allowed the party to secure the necessary support to move the bill forward.
In the Cincinnati Enquirer's online edition, Seitz wrote Tuesday that the new version of the Ohio bill was being prepared "in secret."
In an opinion post for the web site, Seitz said he was taking a cue — or as he called it, "tea party lessons" — from the health care debate in Washington, D.C. He wrote that he wouldn't support the bill unless he read it and understood it. "We should expect no less from Republican majorities than we demanded of Democrat ones."
Committee Chairman Kevin Bacon said replacing Seitz on the panel was done "due to vote count" but would not comment further.
Bacon, a Columbus Republican, said the measure has enough support to pass the Senate, where the GOP has a 23-10 advantage. Before becoming law, it would have to go through the Ohio House, where Republicans hold a 59-40 advantage, and be signed by Republican Gov. John Kasich.
Kasich supports the effort and has said restricting collective bargaining also would be part of a package he plans to present March 15 in his budget plan to address the state's $8 billion deficit, joblessness and poverty.
The legislation would set up a new process to settle worker disputes. Either party could request a mediator, but local or state elected officials would have the final say in unresolved contract issues. Binding arbitration, which police officers and firefighters use to resolve contract disputes as an alternative to strikes, would be eliminated.
The lone GOP committee member who voted against the bill, Sen. Jim Hughes, said he was "very concerned" about the new dispute process, and Senate Democratic Leader Capri Cafaro said the bill "turns collective bargaining into a one-sided conversation where management always gets the last word."