Hey, gang, remember SB 5?  Yep, it’s still out there.  Still pending in House.  And making State Senator Frank LaRose the most powerful legislator in the State of Ohio right now.  This isn’t going to script at all for the GOP. 

You see, Kasich came out of the election and declared a sudden interest in major collective bargaining “reforms” that he never discussed much during the campaign.  In outlining the issue, Kasich mandated that “reform” had to have number of key components in it.  One of those mandatory components was that binding arbitration had to go: not amended, ended.  Kasich, however, never offered any real alternative to binding arbitration.  Turns out that was a major unforced error on his part.

Shannon Jones, for reasons nobody can figure out except she’s an opportunist who craves the limelight, was tasked with rolling out what was once called the GOP Senate’s top legislative priorities this year.  Her bill originally banned collective bargaining for state employees entirely.  It whipped unions and progressives at levels not seen since 2008 or 2006.  And because Jones drafted the bill in secret, they didn’t bother to organize support for the bill at all.  They figured a quick legislative sneak attack would carry the day.  Again, another unforced error by Kasich and his GOP allies in the legislature.

But public outcry forced Jones’ hand to retreat the bill some.  But now a new problem arose: what do you replace binding arbitration with?  Jones and the State Senate decided to allow a process in which the government’s legislative body gets to break all ties between the government and labor.  I can’t believe any of them honestly thought this alternative passed the smell test, but they did, mostly because the Senators wanted to move on and get out of the glaring intense spotlight and onto to the State budget.

So SB 5, what was once called the Senate GOP’s top legislative priority, passed the Senate by one vote after the GOP was forced to agree to some changes in order to win over the critical 17th vote provided by freshman Senator Frank LaRose.  SB 5, though, limped to the House having been raised by a single-parent for no other State Senator dared to add their name to Jones’ bill—a rare thing to see for such a major piece of high-profile legislation.

House Speaker Bill Batchelder is living a lifelong dream.  Once considered somewhat of an outlier among his own colleagues as part of the “Caveman Caucus” in the 1980s-1990s, Batchelder has seen his Republican Party take a rightward lunge to the point where he could be the Speaker of the most conservative House in Ohio history.  So conservative, that it probably is further to the right than the State Senate, which traditionally had always been the more conservative body, even during prior Republican House rules.  Batchelder is widely regarded by both sides of the aisle as being as shrewd politically as he is the intellectual heft of the conservative movement in Ohio.

But you don’t become Speaker without understanding how to count votes and parliamentary procedure.  Initially, they wanted to get SB 5 passed before the budget was even introduced, because the budget is very time consuming and expected to be as controversial, if not more, than SB 5.  Second, Kasich was counting on citing SB 5’s passage as a tool he was giving cities to deal with the massive cuts in funding his budget was going to propose.  Therefore, the plan was to have SB 5 be the law of land right as the budget was being introduced.

But then labor started organizing a referendum campaign to repeal whatever passed.  There is intense internal partisan debate on both sides of the aisle which party benefits from having the referendum in 2011 and 2012.  The prevailing thought in Republican circles is that the party should avoid giving Obama a huge GOTV vehicle by having the SB 5 referendum on the ballot next year as it could be for Democrats what the same-sex marriage ban amendment was for social conservatives was in 2004.  So, in order to prevent that from happening, Batchelder knows that SB 5 must be able to be signed into law by the first week of April.   However, Batchelder also committed that the House wouldn’t rush passage and would hold three weeks of hearings in response to public criticism that the Republicans were railroading the bill in without serious consideration and debate.

That basically meant that Batchelder had to make sure whatever changes the House makes to SB 5, it’ll get enough votes in the Senate to agree to them to avoid a conference committee that would delay passage of the bill past the first week of April.  Although passage in the House was assured, the form the bill took in the House depends on what it believed the bare majority in the State Senate would accept.  This means that Frank LaRose, a freshman member in the State Senate, has suddenly become the most powerful legislator in Columbus because the entire outcome of SB 5 depends on keeping his support.

Batchelder also knew that the Senate’s “solution” to the binding arbitration couldn’t stand.  But the more the House examined the issue, the more they realized how difficult it was to come up with a true replacement for binding arbitration.  They considered letting the courts decide, but that was tossed when Republicans realized that it would increase union involvement in judicial campaigns and would subject the judiciary to charges of being political.  Batchelder is a former appeals court judge, so that was scrapped.

They then considered perhaps using retired judges to decide such matters.   And this may be one that still makes it into the bill, except some have suggested that such a change is still essentially binding arbitration.  The latest idea is letting the voters decide which proposal, the unions or the governments, should be adopted if there’s an impasse.  But that has already been criticized as equally unworkable by the Akron Beacon Journal.  Having charged ahead quickly on SB 5 without first resolving the issue of what to replace binding arbitration with has left the entire GOP legislative caucus painting into a corner while holding a very politically damaging bill.

Painted into a corner

The conservative ideologues in the House were furious to see the Senate backpeddle on SB 5 at all.  They would like to see the bill go even further than Jones originally called for. 

Then there’s been rumors about how the GOP wants to frustrate labor’s ability to subject SB 5 to a referendum… like splitting the bill into five bills and forcing a referendum piecemeal fashion, or adding an appropriation on it so they could have a legal argument to the GOP-controlled Ohio Supreme Court that the bill isn’t subject to referendum under Ohio’s Constitution.  Americans for Prosperity wants changes that make union membership voluntary and prohibits the collection of dues that fund unions’ political activities.

But the political desire to avoid a 2012 referendum vote is forcing the Republicans to consult with the Senate’s bare majority.  Giving folks like Frank LaRose practical veto power over every one of these proposals, or force the bill into a conference committee and a certain 2012 referendum instead.  It’s not just LaRose, the House is trying to find a way that if the lose LaRose or anyone else they can pick up perhaps Grendell or Seitz.  This has lead to some difficult political calculus that resulted in today’s story in the Columbus Dispatch:

A bill that would weaken collective bargaining for public workers is not coming in for a smooth landing.

Talks among House Republicans, and discussions between the House and Senate, have not yet produced a final version of Senate Bill 5 that has enough support to pass both chambers. The Senate passed the bill earlier this month by a 17-16 vote.

The House held 36 hours of testimony on the bill. House Speaker William G. Batchelder, R-Medina, has said lawmakers are looking at a number of modifications, but two of the biggest include whether law enforcement and firefighters should be treated differently in the bill, and whether there is a better way to resolve stalled contract negotiations.

The House and Senate have not reached agreement on how to change the bill, and House Republicans reportedly are not in agreement on a path forward.

The Republicans have fifteen days to work out a bill that can pass both chambers and be signed into law.   That Senate scorecard we did?  Yeah, it’s even more relevant now than ever.  Because unless the GOP can pick up one of the No votes, they can only go as far as they can without risking losing Gillmor or LaRose.

Batchelder wants to be relieved of the pressure of getting this done in the next two weeks because he believes it’s keeping the bill for going further than it might be able to if it were forced to go to an actual conference as opposed to the GOP-only House/Senate de facto conference they’re essentially conducted.  But that’s yet another way Kasich has forced Batchelder’s hand.  You see, Kasich’s budget relies on giving the cities SB 5 to manage the massive cuts in his budget to their funding because, again, SB 5 was supposed to be law already by now if the GOP had executed their playbook as intended.  Kasich can’t afford the prospect of losing the referendum, but he sure as heck cannot afford having SB 5 stayed pending a referendum until November 2012.  Such a circumstance would blow a political, if not a fiscal one, in the credibility of Kasich’s budget.

So we know that the GOP has essentially all next week to finally work out a bill, but then again, they’ve not made much progress in the past three.  Clock panic is starting to set in among Republicans who are stunned at just how badly the entire SB 5 process has gone.   I bet we’ll see a new, new SB 5 about this time next week with a quick floor vote on April 5th and/or 6th in both Houses.  They, of course, need to get the bill out of committee first, too.

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  • Jillzimon

    Maybe they should stop focusing on “giving tools” to local governments that will make life more difficult for the electeds, the employees and the people who receive the services provided by those employees – aka the taxpayers, and go back to what they claimed they campaigned on – jobs and the economy. With “tools” like the ones Kasich and his Republican pals in the legislature are devising, we’re all getting screws put to us.

  • Ilovetoledo

    What a bunch of dolts! What the hell did they think was going to happen!!!!!!!!!!!!?????????????

  • Sluggo

    Not only LaRose, but Gilmor, too right? After all she’s said SB5 is a bad bill and she’ll sign the referendum petition. I think Grendel and Seitz are wildcards – their objections were narrow and maybe not even based on the merit of the bill.
    Nice analysis, Modern.

  • herc

    I’m wondering, though, if they take so long to sort this out that it has to be put on the 2012 ballot, if Kasich would then use that as an excuse why his budget is going to fail. Obviously if he gets everything he wants, and the budget fails, people lose jobs, etc, it’s all on him. But, if he’s not able to carry out what he says is a key piece of his budget, he’s going to spend day and night blaming the unions for causing budget problems, and some people might be dumb enough to believe it…

  • HE has nothing to replace binding arbitation except what they call DICTATORSHIP in some countries.

  • Bob

    Great analysis, Mods.

  • progressive dem

    You guys should do a House scorecard too.

  • Anonymous

    “Shannon Jones, for reasons nobody can figure out except she’s an opportunist who craves the limelight, was tasked with rolling out what was once called the GOP Senate’s top legislative priorities this year.”

    The reason? 2 words: “Warren” and “County”

    She’s the safest pigeon in the cage. They’d vote her back in even if she proposed a tax on lawn sprinklers and luxury SUVs.

    Well, maybe.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, Gilmor may at last have a chance to show she can back up the “damage-control” rhetoric she spewed the day after she signed the bill (even though she insisted that she was “not the deciding vote” — uhh, some other guy was).

    Was it all bullshit? Will she keep her promise and step up for her constituents? Or will she once again sell them out to please the Republican Boys Club?

    I’m not holding my breath. She’s shown her true colors. Party before People.

  • Ilovetoledo

    Trickle-down economics never never ever works! The only solution is to restore the tax rate to what it was before the Repubs passed all the cuts for their friends that created NO JOBS on both the national and state level!

  • Littleguy

    great work. thanks for keeping us informed.

    You should check the Findlay Courier. Kasich says we have no money but yesterday Cooper Tire announced that it’s CEO earned $6 million last year. At $40,000 per year, a school teacher would have to work 125 years to earn that. I know a Cooper worker who just started at about $15/ hour. That person will need to work 198 years to earn that. But we are abolishing teachers jobs and Governor Bumble Stumble just gave that CEO a tax cut!

  • GreenIris

    I hate to be the one who puts this in perspective, but $15 for unskilled is way above prevailing wage. Anything above $10 is good $, if you can actually get hired in and not just be an indentured temp. That’s how beaten down the good people of Ohio are.

  • Nannabe1

    As tax payer, who helps pay the salaries of the police, firemen, and teachers, I do not feel that I should also pay for their health and pension benefits. Something also needs to be done about accruing vacation and sick days.

  • CDR Jan

    So, you think public employees should be slave labor, with no benefits?

    How very . . . Republican . . . of you.

    I was a public employee for 25 years and recently retired. I contributed 8.5% of my gross wages towards my pension and about 20% of the premiums for my employer-provided health care coverage for those 25 years. Prior to my public employment, I served on active duty for 11 years.

    I do not believe that I, as a consumer, should have to pay for YOUR health and pension benefits, which I do because their cost is factored into the price of the goods or services your employer produces.

    Collective bargaining is a two-sided process: management (employers) and labor (employees). All of the benefits currently enjoyed by public employees covered by collective bargaining agreements were MUTUALLY AGREED TO by both sides. To demonize one side (labor) and give a pass to the other (management) is . . . very Republican.

    Oh, by the way, did your employer required YOU to take 10 unpaid leave days for each of the past two years? The State of Ohio required its employees to do so.

  • Mdemay

    It sure would be nice if the Public School Superintendents of Ohio would march (Rally) to Columbus and make their concerns known. 15% cut without warning to balance our Ohio Budget. —Without warning—-Come on Top Administrators- Senate and Reps.====get real. There will not be enough money in this state to fund the lottery and/or future casino’s. What about a state freeze to stall the problem and gain time to seriously correct the situation. All facets of Ohio working together to make our State the most ideal place to live and work. Public and private.

  • We live in Dayton and our local gov is not supporting this bill!! I wish elected representatives would listen to those that elected them….then again I know many police, firefighters and teachers that want their votes back!!

  • Like the similar bill in MI where the Gov can just come in and overtake local government…these new GOP govs think they are Kings, I am hoping our democratic base finally wakes up and kicks them to the curb.

  • Anonymous

    You pay for your doctors health and pension and vacations. You pay for your lawyers health and pension and vacations. You pay for your Insurance agents health and pension and vacations. You pay for your dentists health and pension and vacations. You pay your vets health and pension and vacations. You pay them all every time you pay your bill. Lets be real. Pay your teachers and firefighters and polices’ health and pension and vacations to or do we need to charge you like the above?. If no one pays yours then get a better job this is still America as far as I looked. That is unless Kasich gets his way. As for sick days accruing that we get instead of additional pay.

  • Anonymous

    For those of you who cannot add. That means at 10 and hour that is 400 a week – taxes ss and others. Can you live on that? That is where a union is helpful. CEO’s get 6 Million and you get 20,800 before taxes and ss and other deductions. Who can live on that? That was a good wage 30 years ago. Not today.

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