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Could a compromise be coming on SB5?

Ohio governor John Kasich asked union leaders Wednesday to put aside past differences and seek a deal on the controversial collective bargaining legislation, one that would remove a referendum on the bill from November ballots. He asked to meet with union leaders Friday.

On the possibility of a compromise, Kasich wrote a letter to leaders of We Are Ohio, an organization formed to oppose SB5, saying, “We ask you to consider this option and join us in working with determination toward a compromise for the benefit of the taxpayers we all serve.”

We Are Ohio leaders responded shortly after the release of the letter Wednesday and Kasich’s ensuing press conference, saying that lawmakers can repeal the entire bill or let the referendum settle the bill’s fate in Nov. 8 elections.

“The time to negotiate was during the legislative process, not 197 days after Senate Bill 5 was first introduced in the Ohio Senate,” Senate Democratic leader Capri Cafaro told The Columbus Dispatch, which first reported the possibility of a deal Saturday. “Unfortunately, it has taken too long for the governor and GOP leaders to acknowledge they overreached.”

Senate Bill 5 seeks to limit the collective bargaining rights of public employees, outlaw seniority as a factor in layoffs and mandate that employees pay for higher portions of health-care benefits, among other provisions.

Aug. 30 is the final day that lawmakers could remove the issue from the November ballot.


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Google acquires Motorola. Google will buy cell-phone maker Motorola Mobility, according to our partner station WBEZ, in a deal worth $12.5 billion in cash. The companies say the deal has been approved by both boards. Good will pay $40 per share for Schaumberg, Ill.-based Motorola, a 63 percent premium on Friday’s closing price. PC Magazine writes today that, for Google, the deal is about acquiring patent rights as much as it is about Motorola’s hardware, such as the Android properties.

2. Fannie Mae violates own policy. Foreclosure rates across the Great Lakes have fallen dramatically in the past year according to recent data, but rates may have remained artificially high because of Fannie Mae foreclosure practices now under scrutiny. The Detroit Free Press reported Sunday the mortgage giant had violated its own policy by forcing banks to foreclose on delinquent homeowners, even as the banks were trying to help borrowers save their houses under the federal Home Affordable Modification Program.

3. Deal to weaken SB5? Officials from two organizations formed to oppose Ohio’s collective bargaining bill secretly met with lawmakers and discussed a possible deal to weaken the controversial legislation. The Columbus Dispatch reports the talks included a potential compromise that included the cancellation of a November referendum on the bill known as SB5. Though no deal was agreed upon, The Dispatch wrote a “framework had emerged to repeal Senate Bill 5 in exchange for union concessions.”


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Michigan starts negotiations. Administrators from Gov. Rick Snyder’s office will begin contract negotiations this week with state workers, who face wage and benefit cuts as Michigan grapples with a budget deficit. According to our partner station Michigan Radio, workers must agree to re-open contracts before negotiations commence. State officials say layoffs are possible should employees not green-light concessions.

2. Ohio’s SB5 faces uphill fight. Voters in the Buckeye State will find a referendum on SB5 on the ballots in November. An early poll shows the controversial state bill that limits collective bargaining rights of public employees faces a formidable challenge. A Quinnipiac poll released this week showed that 56 percent of voters favor repealing the law, while 32 percent believe it should be kept, according to The Plain Dealer of Cleveland.

3. Political divide on Wisconsin rail projects. A proposal for a commuter rail from Milwaukee to Racine and Kenosha could be dropped today. Tomorrow, the Milwaukee Common Council could approve a downtown streetcar line. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports the transportation issue has become a “defining” one for politicians. What comes next in Wisconsin? To some extent, it depends on how people get to work.


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Michigan starts negotiations. Administrators from Gov. Rick Snyder’s office will begin contract negotiations this week with state workers, who face wage and benefit cuts as Michigan grapples with a budget deficit. According to our partner station Michigan Radio, workers must agree to re-open contracts before negotiations commence. State officials say layoffs are possible should employees not green-light concessions.

2. Ohio’s SB5 faces uphill fight. Voters in the Buckeye State will find a referendum on SB5 on the ballots in November. An early poll shows the controversial state bill that limits collective bargaining rights of public employees faces a formidable challenge. A Quinnipiac poll released this week showed that 56 percent of voters favor repealing the law, while 32 percent believe it should be kept, according to The Plain Dealer of Cleveland.

3. Political divide on Wisconsin rail projects. A proposal for a commuter rail from Milwaukee to Racine and Kenosha could be dropped today. Tomorrow, the Milwaukee Common Council could approve a downtown streetcar line. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports the transportation issue has become a “defining” one for politicians. What comes next in Wisconsin? To some extent, it depends on how people get to work.


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. SB5 will appear on ballot. Ohio’s controversial collective-bargaining law will be decided by Buckeye State voters in November, according to The Plain Dealer, which first broke the news Thursday afternoon. A group leading the repeal effort needed to submit 231,147 signatures to place the issue on the ballot. They submitted 915,456, the Ohio elections chief told the newspaper.

2. Bills restrict Michigan regulators. Two packages of bills making their way through the Michigan state Legislature would prohibit the governor and other state agencies from making any rule more stringent than federal standards. Only the Legislature would retain that power, according to our partner station Michigan Radio. Critics say the legislation is a power grab, and that Michigan needs strengthened laws to protect resources like the Great Lakes.

3. Ohio ranks worst in air quality. Three Midwestern states ranked among the top seven states in which residents are most at risk from toxic emissions from coal-and-oil power plants, according to a report issued Wednesday. Ohio ranked worst in the nation, while Indiana and Michigan were sixth and seventh, respectively. The study, according to Reuters, was an analysis of 2009 toxic emissions data released by the Environmental Protection Agency last month.


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Fearing reform, Ohio teachers retire. Efforts to reform education in Ohio are causing anxiety among the state’s teachers. Possible changes to the teachers’ pension system and the politicization of education are cited as reasons for an 11 percent increase in retirement applications. Our partner station Ideastream reports that even though changes may be months or years away, the impact is being felt now in classrooms.

2. Youngstown mayor gets a promotion. The White House will name Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams to a new post this afternoon, in which he’ll help communities affected by auto industry layoffs. Williams will serve as a liaison between the Labor Department and cities and states, according to The Plain Dealer, and coordinate aid for communities trying to recover from plant closings.

3. Illinois ends state’s last writing exam. In a cost-cutting move that saves Illinois $2.4 million, high school juniors will no longer be tested on writing skills in annual standardized tests administered each spring. Some educators worry that writing skills will now receive less emphasize compared to other areas, like reading and math, that are required under the No Child Left Behind law.


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Mixed news for Midwest economy. The Midwest economy is still growing, albeit not at as fast a pace as previous months. That’s the conclusion of a report issued today from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. The Midwest Economy Index decreased to +0.83 in May from +0.94 in April. It remained above its historical trend for the 15th consecutive month.

2. Chicago mayor: 625 could lose jobs. If unions do not make concessions that help the city of Chicago save $16 to $20 million by tonight, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel says 625 city employees could face layoffs. An agreement on labor concessions through the first six months of the year expires at midnight tonight, according to our partner station WBEZ.

3. SB5 opponents deliver signatures to Columbus. Protesters of an Ohio bill that limits collective-bargaining rights of public employees descended upon Columbus on Wednesday. Approximately 6,000 people delivered nearly 1.3 million signatures to the statehouse in hopes of placing a referendum on SB5 on the state’s November ballot, our partner Ideastream reported.


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Economic growth remains below average. The Chicago Fed National Activity Index showed slight improvement in May, but remained below its historical average. It increased to -0.36 in May following a -0.56 mark in April. Production and income categories contributed gains to the index, but employment indicators were negative for the second straight month.

SB5 could be divided into separate ballot questions. In order to weaken fierce opposition to a bill that restricts the collective bargaining rights of public employees, Ohio Gov. John Kasich may divide the measure known as SB5 into multiple ballot questions, reports the Columbus Dispatch. Voters could then cast ballots on each provision. State Republicans are talking to the Ohio Ballot Board on options on how to present the measure(s).

Michigan airports face uncertain future. A federal subsidy that funds commercial service at smaller airports across the nation could be cut by Congress. This week, House lawmakers are targeting the Essential Air Service subsidy, which brings $9 million to Michigan airports, according to the Detroit News. Without the money, airlines may lose money on the routes and curtail service.


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Suburban Cleveland communities study consolidation. Four communities in suburban Cleveland announced today they will begin the process of studying a merger. The mayors of Pepper Pike, Orange Village, Moreland Hills and Woodmere have agreed to be part of a pilot program. No timetable was given for reaching a decision.

The announcement comes on the heels of last week’s announcement from Ohio Governor John Kasich, who wants a committee to explore consolidation among the state’s 3,800 government entities. In a written statement issued Wednesday, Cuyahoga County executive Ed FitzGerald called the merger of the four towns a “logical outcome,” because they already share a school district, recreation program and library.

2. Emergency managers challenged in Michigan. A lawsuit was filed today in Ingham County Circuit Court, challenging a new Michigan law that gives expanded powers to emergency managers of cities and school districts in crisis. “This law violates one of the basic principles of democracy, where people get to vote and no one can impose a dictator on them,” said Bill Goodman, an attorney for the Sugar Law Center of Detroit, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of 28 plaintiffs, according to the Detroit Free Press.

3. Merit-pay-for-teachers plan gains surprising supporter. Count Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson among the unlikely supporters of a merit-pay plan for teachers similar to the some provisions proposed by Republicans in Ohio’s controversial Senate Bill 5. Jackson has previously categorized the overall bill as an attack on the rights of public workers. In a phone interview with The Plain Dealer, Jackson said the merit pay proposals give Cleveland the “greatest opportunity to educate children in the shortest period of time.”