Debate Forum Topic, 11/1/11

Controversial State Issue 2 on the Ohio November ballot

By Jeff Darcy

By Jeff Darcy

The state of Ohio, as well as many of its nearly 5,600 political subdivisions, is still in the grips of a financial crisis with continued reduced revenues and increased demands for service. As part of the Kasich administration’s plan to address the $8 billion dollar deficit facing Ohio, the legislature passed Senate Bill 5 as a cost savings measure. The passage of the bill last March was controversial and divisive. Public employee unions immediately began efforts to overturn the new law through the referendum process.

That effort to repeal Senate Bill 5 will appear on the November 8 general election ballot in the state of Ohio as a veto referendum. The measure would repeal legislation passed earlier this year that limits some aspects of collective bargaining for public employees in the state. Perhaps most concerning to public service unions, SB 5 prevents unions from charging “fair share” union dues to employees who choose to opt out. The process to place the referendum on the ballot for voters to decide was completed by supporters collecting hundreds of thousands of signatures qualifying the issue for the general election ballot. The group behind the referendum effort is the political action committee We Are Ohio. The group supporting Senate Bill 5 and opposing its repeal is the political action committee Building a Better Ohio.

Senate Bill 5 impacts the state’s 400,000 public workers, restricting their ability to strike and limiting their right to collectively bargain. As it stands, the bill would permit public employees to collectively bargain for wages, but would prevent 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. Here is a summary of the bill:

Bargaining: Expands the topics that management can refuse to negotiate with public employees. Those topics include: employee qualifications, work assignments and staffing levels. According to reports, public employees can still bargain for wages and hours. Strikes: Strikes would be banned, along with a deduction of “an amount equal to twice the employee’s daily rate of pay” for each day an employee is considered to be on strike. Performance pay and sick/vacation leave: The new law will implement a pay by performance provision. Sick leave would be reduced from three weeks a year to two. Vacation leave would be capped to five weeks a year.

Union fees: Public employees would not have to pay union fees if they choose not to become a union member. This was a condition of employment before Senate Bill 5. When voters read the ballot language,  a “yes” vote will be a vote to keep the law, while a “no” vote will be a vote to repeal the law. Ohio’s airwaves have been filled with millions of dollars in political advertizing as the two groups make their arguments to Ohio voters.

Supporters of Issue 2 support the enactment of Senate Bill 5. Proponents of the bill say that the law is needed to allow state and local governments to better control their costs. And that the bill will restore “balance to the system.”

Opponents of Issue 2 oppose the enactment of Senate Bill 5. Opponents argue that the bill is a “political assault on the rights of middle-class workers” and that public employees have a right to collectively bargain.

Forum Question of the Week:

Should Ohio voters pass or reject State Issue 2? 

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