Senator Scott OelslagerThe Massillon Independent is reporting that State Senator Scott Oelslager (R-North Canton) has publicly announced that he will not support SB 5 to repeal collective bargaining for State employees.

“I will oppose the bill and will vote no if it does come to a vote,” he said.“I believe there has to be a balance between management and labor and the give and take of the collective bargaining process allows that balance to take place.

“Throughout my career I’ve been a strong supporter of collective bargaining for that reason,” he added.

This is a significant development in that this is the first time any Republican has publicly announced their opposition to a major policy initiative of the Kasich Administration.

But it’s mostly symbolic, not surprising at all, nor a sign that SB 5 isn’t certainly likely to pass.  The Republicans outnumber the Democrats in the State Senate 23 to 10.  So, even in the face of unified Democratic opposition, Senate President Tom Niehaus (R-New Richmond) can pass whatever he wants while releasing up to six of his most politically vulnerable to vote with the Democrats to make them politically immune from what passes the Senate.

Oelslager was just elected to the State Senate from the Ohio House (he’s been ping-ponging from chamber to chamber since 1985), so he wouldn’t have to face voters until 2014.

Oelslager’s district isn’t likely to change much from redistricting, and SB 5 would be political suicide for him to support given the blue collar nature of his district.  Oelslager gets to act of political necessity while portraying it as an act of political courage, maverick-ness, to the folks back home for “standing up to his own party.”  Oelslager was endorsed by the AFL-CIO and SEIU District 1199 in his most recent election.

The actual reality is Oelslager is on the coveted Rules Committee, Judiciary Committee, is the chair of the Health, Human Services & Aging Committee, and on the very Finance Committee hearing SB 5.  A seasoned legislator like Oeslager likely didn’t do this and put those committee assignments at risk without getting the blessing of the Senate President.  A tell that a Republican has truly gone off the reservation is that their committee assignments are quickly pulled.

If that doesn’t happen, you know that Oeslager’s vote was released by Niehaus because he’s got votes to spare.

This won’t be the last of the Senate Republicans to likely get released either.  Remember, Niehaus can afford to lose six members of his caucus (slightly over a quarter of it) and still pass anything without much worry if he’s confident in his vote counters.

Here’s some of the other Republican Senators whom I suspect may be released from supporting SB 5:

  • Freshman Senator Frank LaRose (R-Akron)
  • Senator Tom Patton (R-Strongsville) (up for re-election next year)
  • Senate Majority Leader Jimmy Stewart (R-Athens) (up for re-election next year.)
  • Freshman Senator David T. Daniels (R-Greenfield)
  • Freshman Senator Bill Beagle (R-Tipp City) (defeated Sen. Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton) in 2010).

Now, you’ll notice with Oeslager, the Republicans could release every one of these Senators and still pass SB 5.

Still, it’s noteworthy that this bill is going to have bipartisan opposition and potentially may only pass narrowly by a one-vote margin.

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