Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Portent of Trouble for Governor Walker? Buckeyes to Reconsider Union Busting Law.

 Semi-truck delivering veto referendum petition signatures to Ohio Secretary of State today in Columbus, Ohio
(Columbus Dispatch Photograph)

Ohio does not have a recall procedure like Wisconsin's to remove state office-holders.  Its recall laws only permit local officials to be targeted for recall. What Ohio does have, however, may be a more powerful tool for the electorate to express its displeasure with state government.  Ohio has a "veto referendum," a procedure by which citizens can petition to repeal a law that they feel was improvidently passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor.  If enough petition signatures are collected (six percent of the electorate), enforcement of the law is suspended until a state-wide referendum is held on the future of the law.

Just as in Wisconsin, Ohio's Republican governor, John Kasich, pushed for a new law in the latest session of the Ohio legislature to substantially reduce the matters that can be negotiated during contract talks between management and public sector unions. The new Ohio law also prohibits public sector unions from striking. The law was promoted by Governor Kasich as a necessary tool to allow the state and local governments to get control of government personnel costs.  (Sound familiar?)  The new law triggered many weeks of protests in Columbus, and sparked organized labor to mount a repeal effort.  (How about this?)

The Columbus Dispatch reported today on the filing of the petitions to repeal Senate Bill 5, the Ohio union-busting law passed this past March:
The coalition leading the effort to repeal Senate Bill 5 delivered a record of nearly 1.3 million signatures to the secretary of state today to place Ohio's new collective bargaining law on the November ballot. A parade of more than 6,000, led by a banner proclaiming the "million signature march," rumbled through Downtown this morning.

We Are Ohio, the group leading the referendum effort, organized the march up Broad Street to Fourth Street, where a 48 ft. semi-truck carrying the 1,298,301 signatures in 1,502 boxes collected will be unloaded. The parade also included retired fire trucks, a drum line, bagpipes and loud motorcycles. It took about 15 minutes to pass.

We Are Ohio needs about 231,000 valid signatures to have Senate Bill 5 placed before voters. Husted has a staff of 60 ready to work this weekend to sort the signatures by county, count them, then distribute them to county boards of elections for validation.
In the 2010 Ohio gubernatorial election, just a shade under 4,000,000 citizens voted and Governor Kasich squeaked through by about 77,000 votes. So the number of signatures on the petitions to subject Senate Bill 5 to a veto referendum represent almost 33% of the 2010 electorate.

The recall effort as to Governor Walker will require about 540,200 signatures, or 25% of the number of voters for governor in the last general election (2,160,832).  I have previously posted about the myriad reasons why securing that many petition signatures in November could be difficult.  Given the success of the We Are Ohio movement, perhaps I was too skeptical about the chances for a successful recall effort as to the governor.

The veto referendum in Ohio will be conducted during the early November 2011 general election, just about the time that the recall petition drive as to Governor Walker will be getting started.  The results of the veto referendum in Ohio will likely impact the energy and success of the effort to gather recall signatures in Wisconsin.

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