915,456 signatures OK’d for ballot issue on bargaining bill
By Marc Kovac
It’s official: Senate Bill 5 is headed to the November ballot, giving Ohio voters the final say on the controversial collective-bargaining package that drew thousands of protesters to the Statehouse earlier this year.
County elections boards verified and Secretary of State Jon Husted certified 915,456 signatures from about 1.3 million submitted on petitions by opponents of the new law.
The results, announced by Husted’s office Thursday, were nearly four times the number needed to qualify for the general election.
Cuyahoga and Franklin counties topped the state in valid signatures submitted, with 131,625 and 104,301, respectively. Summit County had the fifth-highest signature total, with 42,362. Mahoning County was No. 7, with 31,251, followed by Stark County with 29,235.
The Ohio Ballot Board will meet next month to finalize the Senate Bill 5 language to be presented to voters.
It’s the second issue set for the November ballot. Voters also will decide on a lawmaker-driven constitutional amendment that would raise the cutoff age for Ohioans wanting to assume judicial seats.
And county elections boards and Husted’s office are reviewing signatures on a possible third issue, a tea party-backed drive to block federal health-care mandates from taking effect.
Senate Bill 5 would place limits on collective bargaining, changing the way more than 350,000 public workers have negotiated contract terms for nearly three decades. The new law also prohibits strikes and enables state and local governments and schools to base employee pay decisions on performance.
Proponents say the changes will help public offices better control costs.
“Ohio voters now have a choice to make,” Jason Mauk, spokesman for Building a Better Ohio, the group that will campaign for Senate Bill 5, said. “We can keep the unfair, unsustainable policies that are bankrupting our communities, or we can change direction and give them the tools they need to create jobs and get spending under control. It’s that simple.”
Opponents counter that SB 5 is a politically motivated attack by Republicans on unions that will cut the ranks of teachers, police officers, firefighters and other public servants.
“This is not just a referendum on a bad bill,” said Ohio AFL-CIO President Tim Burga during a roundtable discussion with labor and other groups Thursday in Columbus. “And this is a bad bill — an unprovoked attack on working families and the middle class. But this is a referendum on the vision of the state of Ohio and what we want this state to look like and what we want this state to be.”
Kasich signed SB 5 into law in late March, but the bill is on hold pending the outcome of the November election.