Last night, I was at my local Drinking Liberally chapter talking to a couple people about my trip to Madison last month, and someone remarked that Ohio passed a bill which was even more draconian. No, I replied, it hasn’t passed yet, but that reminded me to look into that. A couple weeks ago I wrote about all the hurdles that SB 5 had to clear in order to get through the legislature. The House wanted to take three weeks to pass it, they could end up changing it, and then the Senate, which only cleared the bill by one vote, would have to take it up again. One of the State Senators who voted for the bill said she would sign a referendum petition to overturn it. So getting through the Senate again would be a tall order for Republicans, especially as polls show Ohioans turning sharply against the bill and Republican Governor John Kasich.
Jim Siegel in the Columbus Dispatch picks up on this today, and finds rough waters for SB 5.
Talks among House Republicans, and discussions between the House and Senate, have not yet produced a final version of Senate Bill 5 that has enough support to pass both chambers. The Senate passed the bill earlier this month by a 17-16 vote.
The House held 36 hours of testimony on the bill. House Speaker William G. Batchelder, R-Medina, has said lawmakers are looking at a number of modifications, but two of the biggest include whether law enforcement and firefighters should be treated differently in the bill, and whether there is a better way to resolve stalled contract negotiations.
The House and Senate have not reached agreement on how to change the bill, and House Republicans reportedly are not in agreement on a path forward.
If these talks drag on, it changes the timing of a referendum. Any bill passed into law in Ohio can be subject to a referendum, a “citizen’s veto,” which would be placed on the next statewide ballot. Union leaders and the Democratic Party have vowed to gather signatures for a referendum on SB 5 if it passes; they’d need about 300,000 names. The bill would have to be signed into law before April 6 for a referendum to be placed on the November 2011 ballot, which would include a bunch of citywide elections in Ohio. If the bill lingers past April 6, the referendum would go on the November 2012 ballot, which would include the Presidential election. There are pros and cons to both, but given the excitement and energy around the labor movement right now, I don’t think Republicans want a measure on the ballot in the bellwether state of Ohio in 2012 that will bring out union voters in big numbers. In addition, the law cannot be enacted until the outcome of the referendum, which would mean years of delay for the stripping of some collective bargaining rights for public employees, the loss of the right to strike, and moving the decision-making for settling labor disputes to local officials.
Simply put, the outcome is not at all clear in Ohio. And the Republicans in the legislature, who have seen their popularity vanish in recent months, are not at all thrilled with passing SB 5 at all.