The Associated Press March 18, 2011, 4:14PM ET

Ohio House plans break on union bill hearings

After weeks of union rallies, a bill sharply limiting the collective bargaining rights of Ohio's 350,000 public workers is in a holding pattern in the Republican-led Ohio House.

The chairman of a House panel considering Senate Bill 5 has not scheduled any hearings for next week.

House spokesman Mike Dittoe said the break is intended to give representatives the chance to prepare amendments to the bill, which already has passed the Senate.

The committee is expected to resume the following week to consider amendments, he said.

The break comes even as forces for and against the bill muster their resources for a showdown.

Former state elections chief Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat, on Thursday pushed union supporters to continue to try to delay the bill.

She said in an email that state ballot deadlines require that the bill pass by April 6 for a valid referendum seeking a repeal of the law to be on the ballot this year.

"The conventional political wisdom is that the GOP would rather see this on the ballot in 2011 than in 2012 at a presidential election," she wrote. "And, a valid petition stops the bill from becoming law unless (and until) it's approved by the voters at a general election."

Both public and private unions have run advertising around the state. TV ads have featured firefighters engaged in harrowing rescues and a full-page newspaper ad by the United Mine Workers of America pledged solidarity with public unions.

The Ohio arm of FreedomWorks, a national group that mobilizes activists in favor of smaller government and lower taxes, is running a campaign supporting Senate Bill 5. Among its arguments is that Franklin D. Roosevelt expressed reservations about public employee unions when he was president.

The Ohio bill would prohibit strikes and limit other rights of police, firefighters, teachers, and other public employees. Unions wouldn't be able to collectively bargain for health care benefits or certain other working conditions, such as maximum class sizes, under the proposal.

The measure has cleared the Republican-led state Senate. A vote in the GOP-led House has not yet been scheduled.

The planned break on the bill comes as the House intensifies its review of Gov. John Kasich's $55.5 billion, two-year operating budget, which was introduced Tuesday. The budget counts on savings from relaxed union rights at the state and local levels.

Dittoe said House Speaker Bill Batchelder and House Labor Chairman Joseph Uecker wanted to give representatives of both parties time to craft changes they would like to see to the bill.

"It's an important bill no matter where you stand on it, and it is something that we want to be very thoughtful and considered about," he said.


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