Decision Coming on Ohio Bargaining Law Making the Ballot

By Sean Cavanagh — July 18, 2011 2 min read
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Supporters of an effort to repeal Ohio’s controversial law limiting collective bargaining for teachers and other public workers need 231,147 valid signatures to get an item on ballot this fall.

They say they’ve got 1.3 million.

A final decision about whether those signatures meet the necessary standard will come next week, when the office of Ohio’s Secretary of State is expected to certify the results as valid or not. County boards of elections in the state are in the process of determining whether the people who signed the petitions are registered at the addresses they provided. The state then certifies the results and determines whether there are enough signatures for the item to qualify for the ballot in November, said Matt McClellan, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office.

Ohio’s state constitution requires that proponents gather valid signatures equal to 6 percent of the total votes cast in the most recent governor’s election—which would be 231,147 for 2010. That process must be competed no later than 105 days before the general election, which is July 26.

In addition, petitioners must also have collected valid signatures from at least 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties, and within each of those counties they must have legit signatures equal to 3 percent of the total vote cast for governor in the most recent governor’s race.

We Are Ohio, a group that supports overturning Senate Bill 5, says it delivered 1,298,301 signatures to the state. “We are confident the repeal of [the law] will be on the ballot this November,” a spokewoman for the group, Melissa Fazekas, said in an e-mail.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich and lawmakers in the Republican-controlled legislature have argued that the collective bargaining law will save districts and taxpayers money and improve schools’ academic performance by freeing them from burdensome contracts and illogical personnel policies.

One of the organizations battling to preserve the law is Building a Better Ohio. On its web site, the group notes that the measure will reduce the role of seniority in school districts’ decisions about layoffs, a change the organization contends will lead to fewer dismissals in school systems and ensure that teachers are judged based on performance. It also says that class sizes will be determined through “locally elected school boards, not the union bosses through contract negotiations.”

Kasich, in an interview with MSNBC posted on Building a Better Ohio’s site, argued that the law will allow school district to take creative steps to save money.

It’s about “letting the mayors and the local communities have the flexibility to make the changes that need to be made,” the governor said.

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.