March 31, 2011

Senate Bill 5 Passes!

Update from Mike Wilson and the Tea Party

Yesterday, S.B. 5 passed the Ohio House on a mostly party line 55-44 vote.  There were a number of changes made in the House passed version that made it better.  Since it was changed, the bill went back to the Ohio Senate where it passed on the same 17-16 vote as it did previously.  Governor Kasich is expected to sign the bill into law early next week.

The key changes from the original bill are the following: 

  • Clarifies that safety issues can be negotiated by police and fire
  • Bans "fair share" contract provisions that force those who opt out of
         union membership to pay some amount anyways
  • Requires union members to opt in for automatic deduction of political contributions
  • Removes penalties associated with illegal strikes
  • Adds a provision that allows a taxpayer referendum as a final check and balance
         if a political jurisdiction agrees to a contract that requires additional
         revenue (taxes)
Note that the first 3 provisions were those specifically requested by tea party leadership across the state.  We were able to work directly with House leadership to improve the bill. 

I see this bill as a huge victory for taxpayers.  Unfortunately, the unions and Democratic Party (hard to tell where one ends and the other begins) are planning a petition campaign to put this on the ballot in November.  Once Governor Kasich signs this into law, they have 90 days to collect signatures equivalent to 6% of the voters in the 2010 gubernatorial election. 

The reason for such strong union and Democratic opposition to the bill has as much to do with politics as it does anything else.  Over the last 20 years, organized labor has outstripped nearly all others in their contributions to candidates - losing out only to the Ohio Republican and Democratic Parties themselves!  More than 95% of those contributions have benefited Democratic candidates who then support expansion of government.

This bill has the potential to break that cycle as long as we counter the misinformation the Democrats and public unions will spread and win the anticipated November referendum.

I'd like to directly address a few myths.

Myth: This bill reduces collective bargaining rights

Response: This bill reduces the special privileges granted to public unions.  Unions are a special entity under Federal and Ohio law and have much greater powers than if workers just got together and signed a contract
with someone to represent them.

Myth: This bill is an attack on the middle class.

Response: 26 states don't allow public employees to collectively bargain.  The federal government does not allow workers to collectively bargain.  They still have a middle class.  In fact, the real middle class is paying for
generous salaries, benefits, and perks for public workers that are generally unavailable in the private sector world.  This bill will help us keep the size of government under control and keep money in the hands of middle class taxpayers. 

Myth: This bill is an attack on our first responders.

Response: The tea party supported adding language to allow police and fire unions to negotiate
safety concerns in their contracts and this was included in the final version of the bill.

Myth: This bill will allow cities and municipalities to fire workers prior to fully vesting in pensions to
avoid their pension obligations.

Response: This is more a problem associated with public workers relying on a government promise of
benefits instead of owning their retirement accounts (i.e. 401k or IRA) like those in the private sector.  Regardless, existing civil service and age discrimination law protect older workers.  Removing seniority provisions are critical to improving productivity and ensuring that workers retain the financial motivation to do their best instead of just marking time until retirement.  Cities and municipalities will still value experience and
time on the job as long as that translates into doing the job better and more efficiently.