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UPDATED: House gives SB 5 approval by 53-44 vote

Published: Wed, March 30, 2011 @ 5:40 p.m.

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Republican-led Ohio House voted Wednesday to severely limit the collective bargaining rights of 350,000 public workers across the state, sending a bill that’s sparked pro-labor protests for weeks back to the state Senate.

The full House approved the measure on a 53-44 vote. A vote in the GOP-controlled Senate, which narrowly approved an earlier version of the legislation, could soon follow.

The measure affects safety workers, teachers, nurses and a host of other government personnel. It allows unions to negotiate wages but not health care, sick time, or pension benefits. It gets rid of automatic pay increases, and replaces them with merit raises or performance pay. Workers would also be banned from striking.

Gov. John Kasich has said his $55.5 billion state budget counts on unspecified savings from lifting union protections to fill an $8 billion hole. The first-term governor and his Republican colleagues argue the bill would help city officials and superintendents better control their costs at a time when they too are feeling budget woes.

Contentious debates over restricting collective bargaining have popped up in statehouses across the country, most notably in Wisconsin, where the governor signed into law this month a bill eliminating most of state workers’ collective bargaining rights. That measure exempts police officers and firefighters; Ohio’s does not.

The Ohio bill has drawn thousands of demonstrators, prompted a visit from the Rev. Jesse Jackson and packed hearing rooms in the weeks before the Senate passed the measure. Its reception in the House has been quieter, though Wednesday’s vote drew several hundred demonstrators to the Statehouse.

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