By Marc Kovac
House Democrats are vowing to “fight like hell” to stop controversial collective-bargaining reform from passing as-is out of the Ohio House.
And thousands of union representatives are expected to return to the Statehouse today to voice their opposition to Senate Bill 5 — at the same time Republican Gov. John Kasich is scheduled to offer his first State of the State address.
So starts yet another week of committee hearings and vocal protests against legislation Kasich and other Republicans say is needed to empower state agencies and local governments to better control and cut their costs.
The House’s Commerce and Labor Committee has scheduled three days of hearings this week on the legislation, which would limit collective bargaining and ban strikes among all the state’s public employees.
The Republican- controlled Senate OK’d the bill on the slimmest of margins last week, and the Ohio House is expected to act on it in coming weeks.
Senate Democrats did not offer amendments to Senate Bill 5 during the committee process or from the floor.
House Minority Leader Armond Budish would not commit Monday to whether Democrats would take a similar “kill the [entire] bill” approach in his chamber.
“The bill is so bad. I do understand the Senate Democrats’ view that they couldn’t offer amendments because you couldn’t repair that bill,” Budish said, adding that opponents have been shut out of the legislative process. “This bill came out of the Senate, probably out of the governor’s office, [and] we haven’t had a chance to participate at all in it.”
Asked later exactly what House Democrats could do, given the Republican majorities in the Legislature, Budish said, “We’ll do the only thing we can do: We’ll fight like hell.”
Unionized police and firefighters groups, meanwhile, have forwarded a list of 28 changes they want made to Senate Bill 5.
The Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio and the Ohio Association of Professional Firefighters and others sent the document to all House members.
Mark Sanders, president of the Ohio Association of Professional Firefighters, said, “Senate Bill 5 pulls the guts right out of our ability to serve the community. It is a public-safety issue. ... The governor may be talking about the State of the State, but I can tell you the state of the state will be unsafe under the provisions of Senate Bill 5.”
On Monday night, the groups invited upward of 4,000 members to a meeting in Columbus to discuss the legislation. They also unveiled print and television ads they’re backing with hopes of explaining their opposition to members and the public.
“We’re going to educate our members, both law-enforcement officers and firefighters, on every provision in this bill that has a negative impact on them,” said Jay McDonald, president of the Ohio FOP. “This not only affects our wages and our pensions and our benefits, but it affects our ability to provide safety, equipment, staffing and other important aspects that literally have a life-or-death effect on our membership.”