Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ohio House Passes Senate Bill 5 to Benefit the Middle Class, Save Jobs

Members of Ohio House of Representatives Passing SB 5
COLUMBUS—After more than 60 hours of testimony and more than 200 witnesses over a period of nearly two months, Senate Bill 5 today passed from the Ohio House of Representatives. This legislation restores fairness for Ohio’s taxpayers and helps prevent mass layoffs of dedicated public employees by giving local governments the flexibility to manage their own finances.
Senate Bill 5 wholly reinvents the relationship between public-sector unions, local governments and the taxpayers. With many local governments threatened by bankruptcy and unable to control their costs, many communities may suffer massive tax increases or widespread layoffs just to keep public services solvent. This legislation—which restores Ohioans’ influence over the government and its employees that they pay for—aims to save these vital jobs while also lowering the tax burden on the middle class.
“Today, this House has taken an unprecedented step toward public policy that respects all Ohioans, especially our taxpayers and our hardworking middle class,” said Speaker of the Ohio House William G. Batchelder (R-Medina). “Senate Bill 5 protects the collective bargaining rights of Ohioans while also giving local governments an additional tool in the toolbox as they balance their budgets. Truly the most important thing we can do is ensure that our public services remain of the highest quality and that we give employers the ability to maintain and reward their employees—rather than resorting to mass layoffs due to ironclad contracts.”
Despite 13 committee hearings on the legislation, the House Democrats offered no amendments to the bill. Furthermore, in Tuesday’s Commerce and Labor Committee, the minority caucus voted unanimously against an amendment that would allow public safety personnel to bargain for safety equipment.
In addition to the Republican amendment to permit bargaining for safety equipment, House modifications to Senate Bill 5 include provisions that permit communications between bargaining parties, clarify that death benefit amounts for spouses are not affected by changes in the bill, and eliminate jail time as a possible penalty for striking.
The House version also removes the use of ticket quotas to determine performance-based pay for law enforcement officials, eliminates automatic union deductions without written consent, and prohibits “fair share” fee penalties as a requirement to be a non-union member within an organization. Additionally, under certain conditions, labor disputes may be settled by voters at the ballot, with last best offers of each bargaining party considered and resolved by Ohio’s taxpayers.
“In this bill, we have successfully maintained the bargaining rights of our communities’ most important public workers—those who educate our children, protect our families and homes, and keep our neighborhoods clean and thriving,” said State Representative Joe Uecker (R-Loveland), who serves as chairman of the House Commerce and Labor Committee. “At the same time, we’ve updated Ohio’s collective bargaining law, which for nearly three decades has rampantly expanded and put an undue strain on our local governments. We have found a delicate balance that will respect the taxpayers, save state and local jobs, and improve the public services we rely on each day.”
To specifically advance the quality of education in Ohio’s classrooms and reward teachers, S.B. 5 establishes standard state guidelines to determine educators’ compensation and other terms of employment. While 50 percent of educator evaluations must be based on student performance as developed by the Ohio Department of Education, local school boards have the authority to establish objective measures related to quality of instructional practice, communication and professionalism, parent/student satisfaction, and other relevant factors.
As passed, S.B. 5 is expected to save local governments more than $1 billion while ensuring that public employees can still collectively bargain under a better system with negotiations, mediation and fairness.
“The economic reality is that here in Ohio, we are looking down the barrel of an $8 billion budget hole that—without prudent reforms and a commitment to reshaping the way Ohio does business—would simply not have disappeared on its own,” said Speaker Pro Tempore Lou Blessing (R-Cincinnati). “It requires difficult decisions, and we’ve taken a step toward sustainable changes that will benefit us today and our children tomorrow. As local governments fight to stay afloat amid this financial storm, we have protected our communities and the indispensible services that our public employees give us.”
S.B. 5 will now return to the Ohio Senate for a concurrence vote.