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SB 5 opponents have their say

Cary Ashby • Jun 23, 2011 at 9:34 PM

Opponents of Senate Bill 5 are having their say.

Supporters of the law, which passed entirely with Republican votes and was signed by GOP Gov. John Kasich, argue it is needed to restore balance to a negotiation table that has tilted too far in the direction of public employees, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill. While it still needs to be finalized, Senate Bill 5 (SB 5) could be signed into law in a few weeks.

Mary Kay Cillo, who has taught physical education and health at Norwalk Middle School for 34 years, said SB 5 reduces funding to Huron County public services by $2.5 million while raising the governor's budget by $5 million. Those employees who are affected include teachers, police, firefighters, ambulance services and nurses.

"It's very arbitrary for the way it's handled," Cillo said.

She thinks there aren't any guidelines for the proposed merit pay for teachers. Cillo said it's unfair for teachers to be "rewarded or denied reimbursement" based on the performance of their students, all of whom are at different academic levels and have different needs.

"It's unfair to everybody," Cillo said.

Loren Anthes, We Are Ohio's regional communications director, was in Norwalk with Cillo on Thursday. We Are Ohio is a coalition of labor, education and Democratic organizations.

"Senate Bill 5 ruins the ability for teachers to say what they need," Anthes said.

Among numerous other things, SB 5 would prohibit strikes by all public employees, limit what they can talk about at the bargaining table, require them to pay at least 15 percent of their health-care premiums and prohibit local governments from paying any portion of an employee's share of his or her pension contributions.

A spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) is speaking out against SB 5 and its ramifications.

"The governor is totally misleading the voters about what SB 5 is going to do in terms of the budget. The state is abdicating its responsibility and placing the burden on local communities. Despite his campaign promises, SB5 will not add one job in the state of Ohio," AFSCME spokesman Dave Blyth said.

Officials with We Are Ohio, which is seeking to repeal SB 5, have said it's an unfair attack on employee rights and worker safety.

"Just as hundreds of thousands of Ohioans are signing petitions to veto SB 5, Gov. Kasich and his cronies are resorting to political tricks to continue their unfair attack on employee rights and worker safety," spokeswoman Melissa Fazekas said in a prepared statement.

"The Ohio Ballot Board should reject Gov. Kasich's ploy and allow citizens to veto the entire bill as prescribed by the Ohio Constitution and legal precedent. As the chief elections officer in Ohio, we are confident that Secretary of State (Jon) Husted will recognize that the ballot board has no legal authority to split this issue and that it has no legal authority to make a referendum anything other than a no vote to veto SB 5," Fazekas said.

We Are Ohio began collecting signatures for repeal petitions in April. At least 231,147 valid signatures of Ohio voters are needed by the end of this month to put the law on the Nov. 8 ballot for an up or down vote.

"The secretary of state has to check them," Anthes said.

So far, he said 714,000 signatures have been collected -- and more are expected.

On Wednesday, We Are Ohio will announce the final number of collected signatures with a parade in downtown Columbus. Anthes said people will be surprised to know many voters signed the petition.

By filing enough signatures that survive scrutiny by county elections boards and potentially the courts, the effects of SB 5 would be placed on hold pending the outcome of the vote. Should voters reject the bill, it would never take effect.

EDITOR'S NOTE: McClatchy News Service contributed to this story.

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