Today’s must-read article is in this morning’s Columbus Dispatch “Some GOP Senators say bill goes too far.”

A bill making major changes to state collective-bargaining law is not a slam-dunk to pass the Senate in its current form.

The Dispatch talked to seven Republican senators this week who either would not commit support or expressed varying levels of discomfort with Senate Bill 5, which would eliminate collective bargaining for state workers, take away binding arbitration for police and firefighters, and limit the bargaining power of teachers and other local workers.

Republicans hold a 23-10 majority and need 17 votes to pass a bill. Democrats are expected to unanimously oppose it.

In other words:

Senate GOP lacks votes to pass SB 5!

Until the GOP Senate Caucus gets a commitment from one of these seven, that means that the Republicans have not secured the votes to assure passage of SB 5.

Here are the name of the seven Senators the Dispatch reports are not yet committed to supporting SB 5:

  • Senator Majority Leader Jimmy Stewart (R-Albany)
  • Sen. Frank LaRose (R-Fairlawn)
  • Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati)
  • Sen. Scott Oelslager (R-Canton)
  • Sen. Gayle Manning (R-North Ridgeville)
  • Sen. Jim Hughes (R-Columbus)
  • Sen. Bill Beagle (R-Tipp City)

If these names sound familiar they’re the exactly same seven Senators we’ve all been talking about since I wrote this post last week.

I’m also curious to know if Sen. Daniels (R-Greenfield) is on board with SB 5, because labor is pretty strong in Southeast Ohio.

Now, let’s first note that one of the seven is in the Senate GOP Leadership.  The Senate Majority Leader is not yet committed to SB 5, a bill introduced by the Senate Majority Whip Shannon Jones (R-Springboro), endorsed by Gov. Kasich, and called one of the top legislative priorities for passage by Senate President Tom Niehaus (R-New Richmond).  To say that Stewart is probably under the most pressure to support SB 5 is an understatement.  However, he knows that to go against labor could cost him dearly in his district if he runs for re-election next year.  This is a potentially political career ending type decision for Stewart.

Does this mean that SB 5 won’t pass?  No.  As the Dispatch noted, the Senate President Pro Tempore, Keith Faber, still predicts passage, but now under a minor condition:

Sen. Keith Faber, R-Celina, the Senate’s No. 2 GOP leader, said he was confident there would be "clear majority support in my caucus." First, however, he expects some changes, though he would not speculate further.

What kind of changes is going to be needed to peel away one of the seven holdouts?

SB 5 GOP Senate StrategyLucky for the Senate GOP, they’ve already got a “Waterboy.”  Enter GOP campaign consultant Mark Weaver.

MarkWeaver Mark Weaver is the principal person at Communications Counsel, Inc., and is a lobbyist.  Weaver was a former spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice during the Reagan Administration.  He’s done countless high-profile campaigns for various Republican candidates in Ohio.  He also recently landed himself a client that you wouldn’t ordinarily see a seasoned Republican political operative land:

The Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio.

Now, Weaver has stressed that he will do no lobbying on behalf of the F.O.P., but if you don’t think he’s become a channel of communication between the FOP and the Senate GOP, then you’re less cynical than I.  First of all, I’ve yet to see any sign of any media or social media campaign by the F.O.P., and Weaver doesn’t take that long (and his client doesn’t have the time) for him to get going.

The F.O.P. testified yesterday that they could live with just the transparency portion of SB 5, the part that says when the parties are at an en passe in negotiations, both sides have to make their offers available for the public to see on the Internet.  Frankly, that wouldn’t be a terrible bill in my mind if that’s all they essentially passed.

“Divide and conquer” is the order of the day for the Senate GOP.  If they could splinter off the F.O.P. and get them to support a bill it could live with, the support of such a union and the modifications  to the bill to earn it will give the pro-SB 5 all they need to peel off enough of the holdouts to pass the bill.

The “wild card” in this situation is not just the F.O.P., though.  Sitting on the sidelines is the conservative House of Representatives lead by the Captain Caveman himself, Speaker Bill Batchelder.  And he’s got folks in his caucus who don’t think SB 5 goes far enough, and they’re already gnashing their teeth at the expectation that the Senate Republicans are going to water down Jones’ bill. 

No union is going to even consider compromising on SB 5 until they have assurances that whatever they agree to is the final product.  If the Senate GOP cannot deliver assurances from Speaker Batchelder that his chamber won’t substantively change the bill, all bets are off.  Because every union knows that the last thing they want is to have this bill go into a closed door conference committee which could suddenly radically change the bill at the last minute before a quick floor vote in both chambers before the unions can even get organized on it.

This seems to be the path SB 5 is taking after only a week of opposition.  Keep it up.  And plan on being at the Statehouse on Tuesday.  Details TBA later.

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