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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  • progressive dem

    We need to be calling these 7 and calling them often. I think the Ohio strategy might be different than the Wisconsin strategy. Democrats cannot stop this alone. Efforts must include the persuasion of these Republicans to bring this down.

  • Another consideration is the 2012 election. This bill will almost be certain to provoke a ballot initiative. Do GOP Senators really want a ballot measure to get out the pro-labor vote about collective bargaining rights concurrent with the 2012 Presidential elections? I’m not sure this would help Sen. LaRose in my hometown or several others to be known as the people who got out the Obama votes in 2012. Kill the Bill.

  • Anonymous

    The F.O.P. better think hard about dancing with the devil. If they turn their backs on fellow union members at this point, then they shouldn’t expect support from other unions when they have an issue that weakens their position.

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  • Joe Houpe

    This bill needs to be shot down !! How to fix the state deficit ? More casinos !!!!!

  • mom62

    Who did the f.o.p. back in the last election? Perhaps what we’re seeing here is a payoff and not a political strategy. Oh, that’s right, our Supreme Court, in its infinate wisdom has made that information private.

  • Anonymous

    Acutally, they’d want it to be on the Fall ’11 election because that would be the soonest to repeal it.

  • Real Get Real

    Yes, I saw Weaver on The Spectrum and it was clear the strategy. He said “police and fire” so many times, you just know the FOP was going to throw the teachers under the “bus”. Teachers are easier targets because it is difficult to scare people with the safety issue. And many people know that a police and fire walkout has a more immediate effect than teacher walkouts.

    But the GOP, er I mean FOP, is taking a huge risk, though calculated. The teachers union is bigger (130,000+) and the demise of the OEA, SEUI, and the other unions abandoned means the FOP becomes the last union standing.

    The FOP then must either continue to play the safety card for what it is worth, or become pawns of the GOP.

    Not a comfortable decision nor that courageous.

    On the flip side, we will see what happens to teachers in Wisconsin. That will set the stage for Ohio. Most Ohio teachers are already being asked to improve the nations future with increased demands and “doing more with less”. I doubt “breaking their backs” will exactly produce a highly motivated and effective workforce. Eventually, parents will wonder why their kids aren’t getting into colleges, why the state is continuing to lose young people, and why the U.S. falls behind other countries. But that takes time.

    A vast majority of teachers are just doing their job and are not getting rich. But the passage of HB5 will start a whole new chapter in Ohio education. Most of it not good.

  • ohiocop

    I’m currently a member of the F.O.P. and I’ve received hundreds of emails that show the FOP is not in support of Senate Bill 5….I can guarantee you that no members of the FOP supports SB5 in its current form or a watered down form. We also receive emails about when the hearings are so members can attend to protest this bill.

  • Anonymous

    Of all the things I have ever written, I hope I am wrong, and you are right. The next hearings are on Tuesday.

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  • Charles In OH

    I’ve been reading the bill and must say I am astonished the lengths this proposal goes to marginalize union representation. Can’t bargain, pay increases based on merit as determined by whom, eliminating boards and commitees that serve to protect workers…

    Also disturbed with the idea of allowing local school boards to control the health plans of teachers. How is this going to save schools money? Isn’t the benefit of a statewide plan that the pool is larger and reduces the individual cost? Also, does this not also increase the likelyhood of school districts making risky investments to fund these plans?

  • Charles In OH

    WHAT: RALLY IN DAYTON!
    Our voices need to be heard at Senator Lehner’s Town Hall Meeting!

    DATE: Monday, February 21, 2011 – 9:15 a.m.

    WHERE: Dayton Convention Center
    22 E. Fifth Street, Dayton, Ohio 45402

    Please join us for a Rally in Dayton, Ohio to Protect Our Heroes! We will meet in front of the Dayton Convention Center on Fifth Street at 9:15 a.m. Bring your members, bring signs – let’s let Dayton know we Oppose SB 5! Tell them to STOP attacking hard-working Police, Firefighters, Nurses, Teachers and Public Employees.

    If you have questions, please email Linda Hofacker at hofacker@ohea.org

  • Real Get Real

    We’ll see ohiocop. Hiring Mark Weaver and his rhetoric shows that the FOP may pursue criminals into buildings and deal with the felons, but I see the writing on the wall that the police will turn tail and cower to the GOP to save their own skins, throwing teachers and others under the Kasich “bus”.

    But I hope I am wrong and the police and fire have the stones to hang with the other public employees and stay in the fight and not tap out early.

    It behooves the FOP to clearly see that HB5 is an attack on collective bargaining and public employee rights. It is the old “we all hang together or we all hang separately”.

    In Wisconsin, the police and fire sold out the other unions but it was a serious mistake UNLESS the tide swings back to Democrat before the GOP turns its gaze on the last remaining public employee unions.

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  • Anonymous

    Yes, and smart politicians can read polls, too. 61% of Americans oppose such collective bargaining reform. 51% of Ohioans do, too. You don’t win elections going against what a majority of Ohioans oppose.

  • Anonymous

    Kasich is trying to help Ohio – of course this does not matter to some, apparently thinking everything is A OK, and the pain America is dealing with is politics as usual.
    Kasich could take Sherrod Brown’s stand, just repeat the socialist agenda, and pander to the neo-democrat status quo – think God he’s not a demon.

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