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Fresh off a lopsided defeat on the Issue 2 referendum, Ohio Gov. John Kasich conceded his signature law that limited collective-bargaining rights of public employees might have been “too much, too soon” for voters.

Now, the question is whether he’ll introduce similar legislation in bite-sized parts.

Despite the fact Issue 2 fell in Tuesday’s vote, 61 percent to 39 percent, polls suggest Ohio voters would support portions of the original law, widely known as Senate Bill 5. Republicans still maintain legislative majorities. More importantly: economic woes that led to SB5 still exist, and budget deficits still need to be solved.

“There is no bailout because, frankly, there’s no money,” Kasich said, according to The Columbus Dispatch, perhaps words that set up the legislative agenda to follow in 2012.

In Cleveland, The Plain Dealer compares the financial position of Ohio municipal governments to that of Detroit automakers three years ago: Needing relief from obligations and procedures they can no longer afford. The newspaper calls Tuesday’s vote “an appetizer” for what happens in 2012.

Expect to see parts of the SB5 law introduced piecemeal, including the introduction of merit pay, employee contributions to healthcare premiums, an emphasis of merit versus seniority in the way layoffs are handled.

If Ohio Republicans had stuck to those points in the first place, Tuesday’s repeal may have been avoided.

Once SB5 because, “an all-out assault on the very existence of public employee unions, they alienated thousands of fair-minded Ohioans,” the newspaper editorialized. It was, “a tone-deaf campaign … class warfare, waged by Republicans.”

 


On the night before a statewide referendum on his signature accomplishment to date, Ohio governor John Kasich spoke to a friendly Tea Party audience of approximately 300 members in northeast Columbus.

He didn’t mention Issue 2 or SB5 until the final two minutes of his hour-long speech.

Although pollsters have predicted voters would repeal the Republican-backed law that limits collective-bargaining rights of public employees by double-digit margins for weeks, it was the first signal from Kasich himself that he expected such an outcome.

It’s a rebuke of Kasich himself, opines Time, which explores the quick descent of a one-time, sure-fire political star in Issue 2 coverage today. At his election in November, 2010, Kasich was a nine-term congressman with an eye on a presidential run. One year later, he’s the second-least popular U.S. governor, according to the article.

Democrats, floundering in Ohio polls since Kasich’s election, hope to use unified opposition to Issue 2 and SB5 as a springboard for a recovery in the Buckeye State before the 2012 presidential election.

Time sums up his misstep: “Public-sector unions have been a frequent target of Republicans’ ire, but they’re not a good piñata in this pivotal swing state.”

 


Across Ohio, voters are headed to the polls today to determine the fate of Issue 2, a referendum on a controversial state law that limits the collective-bargaining rights of public employees.

Here’s a roundup of ongoing coverage of the vote on Issue 2 from around the Buckeye State:

From The Columbus Dispatch: Issue 2 is expected to drive voters to the polls at higher numbers than other non-presidential election years. Franklin County, which encompasses the greater Columbus area, reached a record number of absentee-ballot requests this year at more than 88,000. The Dispatch reports voter turnout is expected to be far higher than the 31 percent of registered voters that cast ballots in 2009.

From Ideastream: Our partner station in Cleveland examines the advertising campaigns mounted by pro-and-anti Issue 2 interest groups. Depending on the vantage point, Issue 2 will harm education. Or save it. It will bolster police forces. Or ruin them. Ideastream reporter Ida Lieszkovsky reports that the ads bring a lot of emotion to the issue, but little concrete information. “There’s usually some truth in there that they’re hanging it on, but sometimes there’s also quite a bit of reach to get the spin,” Robert Higgs, editor of PolitiFact Ohio tells Lieszkovsky.

From the Cincinnati Enquirer: The respective campaigns for and against Issue 2 and its legislative predecessor, Senate Bill 5, have taken perhaps an interesting turn in the final hours. Union opponents of the bill boldly spoke of defeating the referendum at a union hall in Hamilton County. “We are going to shove Senate Bill 5 down the throats of John Kasich and his ilk,” said Howard Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Firefighters.

In a speech to 300 Tea Party supporters in Eastgate, Gov. Kasich spoke for an hour Monday night. He didn’t mention Issue 2 until the final two minutes of his speech, according to The Enquirer.

From The Plain Dealer: The U.S. Justice Department has sent election observers to Lorain County today to ensure that county officials keep a commitment to provide Spanish-language ballots.  Last month, the county’s Board of Elections agreed to provide the ballots as part of a lawsuit settlement with the DOJ. The Plain Dealer reports bilingual ballots and bilingual poll workers will be provided in targeted precints.

From Politico: Democrats were stung in Ohio in the 2010 elections, losing the governorship and five congressional seats. This year? They’re planning on using traction from the Issue 2 as a springboard into the national 2012 elections.  James Hohmann writes, “Obama is still polling badly in Ohio, but his campaign has capitalized on perceived Republican overreach to bring recalcitrant liberals back into the fold.”


“Shall the law be approved?”

It’s a simple question that voters will see on ballots across Ohio on Tuesday. Their answers will write another chapter around one of the most divisive issues of the 2011 campaign season, a political battle over Issue 2 and the collective bargaining rights of public employees.

Here are some of the basics:

The history: Issue 2 is a referendum that provides a bookend to an earlier piece of state legislation, Ohio’s Senate Bill 5, which was passed by the state legislature and signed into law by Gov. John Kasich on March 31. SB5 limits the collective bargaining rights of Ohio’s 360,000 public employees.

Among the mandates of SB5: It says public employees must pay for at least 15 percent of their health care premiums, prohibits union members from negotiating benefits, makes strikes by union members illegal and emphasizes merit versus seniority when mulling promotions.

The buildup: Union organizers gathered enough signatures to place a repeal of SB5 on the November ballot. At the end of August – five months after signing the bill into law — Gov. Kasich sought a compromise on SB5 that would strike down some provisions in exchange for removing the referendum, now known as Issue 2, from the ballot.

Organizers of the anti-SB5 group We Are Ohio told the governor they would not compromise on piecemeal provisions in the law. They wanted it repealed in its entirety before they would negotiate. An August 30 deadline passed. No compromise was reached.

What happens Tuesday: Polling places are open in Ohio from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. ET. A “yes” vote on Issue 2 means a voter approves of the SB5 law. A “no” vote means a voter rejects the law.

What comes next: Two weeks ago, a Quinnipiac Poll showed voters could reject the measure by a 25-point margin. If Issue 2 is defeated and SB5 is repealed, that hardly means the debate is finished.

Many Ohio politicians have indicated that the Republican-led legislature would introduce parts of the bill individually – while recent polls have showed weak support for SB5 overall, they have also shown strong support for certain segments of it.

The Columbus Dispatch reported Monday those provisions could include, “limits on how much local governments would be required to pay toward employees’ health-insurance costs or on picking up portions of employees’ pension contributions.“

Broader implications: Results of the Ohio vote are being closely watched across the Midwest. In Wisconsin,a fight of similarly fierce volume broke out over legislation that limited the collective-bargaining rights of public employees, and many experts will draw parallels between the Ohio results and ongoing efforts in Wisconsin to recall Gov. Scott Walker.

But there are clear distinctions between the states and the way they operate, explains the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Public Policy Polling’s Tom Jensen tells the newspaper it’s partly a referendum on the governors.

“I think that if the (Ohio law) really does get rejected by the kind of margins the polls are suggesting, it’s a reflection of the fact that John Kasich is a lot more unpopular than Scott Walker is,” he said.