By Marc Kovac
Opponents of collective-bargaining reform passed by Republican lawmakers and signed into law by Gov. John Kasich have been given the green light to collect signatures to repeal the law.
Secretary of State Jon Husted certified the initial signatures submitted by the group We Are Ohio, and Attorney General Mike DeWine approved the language contained in the shorter of two petitions submitted to his office to review.
The approvals from the two Republican officeholders were needed before We Are Ohio could circulate its petitions. The group will need to collect more than 231,000 signatures from registered voters throughout the state before the end of June to qualify for the November ballot.
Senate Bill 5 opponents don’t think they’ll have a problem meeting those requirements.
“Most petition-drive campaigns in this state struggle to get volunteers to help them,” said Dennis Willard, a spokesman for We Are Ohio. “We have thousands of people asking us not where do I sign?” but where do I sign up to become a petition circulator.
Senate Bill 5 places limits on collective bargaining, changing the way public workers have negotiated contract terms for nearly three decades.
It allows more than 350,000 public employees to negotiate for wages, hours, safety-equipment needs and working terms and conditions but not other issues.
It prohibits those workers from striking, caps employer contributions to health-care premiums and requires employees’ pay to be based on their performance, not solely on seniority.
The bill passed the Ohio House and Senate on mostly party-line votes and was signed into law by Kasich late last month.
Proponents say the law enables state and local governments to control their costs better, but opponents say it’s a politically motivated attack on unions.
Opponents have about 90 days to complete the referendum process to place the legislation on the November ballot. If they succeed, Senate Bill 5 will not take effect until after the election — or never if voters reject it.
On Friday, Husted certified 2,506 signatures of 2,835 collected by the group, which needed 1,000 to meet the initial referendum requirement. The secretary of state also signed off on the full text of Senate Bill 5, which was submitted to his office for review.
DeWine OK’d the summary language for the shorter version of We Are Ohio’s petition but rejected a longer version, saying it was “far too lengthy and detailed to be considered a short and concise summing up of the matter.”
Willard said We Are Ohio will launch the petition drive in coming days. Additional information about that effort will be available on the group’s website, www.weareohio.com.
The most recent referendum to repeal an Ohio law was an unsuccessful effort in 2008 by the payday-loan industry to overturn limits passed by lawmakers.