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Spurred by a new law that curtails collective bargaining rights for public workers, Democratic lawmakers in Ohio are proposing legislation that would allow voters to recall the governor and members of the General Assembly.
The bill has little chance of passing the Republican-controlled Legislature. But its sponsors on Wednesday said Ohioans should be given an opportunity to react to the collective bargaining limits just as voters are in Wisconsin. Sixteen state senators there face recall efforts over a similar union measure.
State Rep. Robert Hagan, a Youngstown Democrat, cited what he called "an attack on working people, an attack on organized labor, an attack on the ability to collectively bargain" as reasons he's co-sponsoring the measure. He said it also had to a lot to do with Gov. John Kasich.
"He's dividing the state," Hagan said. "He's hurting the people in this state and we think that this legislation that will be offered will go to the heart of those constituents and voters who have grown disenchanted with this governor."
Mike Dittoe, a spokesman for the House Republicans, said: "The reality is that this is nothing more than politics as usual from the minority caucus. We have a process in place in Ohio and the entire United States for keeping or replacing their elected officials. They're called elections."
Contentious debates over restricting collective bargaining have popped up in statehouses across the country. In Wisconsin, the governor signed into law last month a bill eliminating most of state workers' collective bargaining rights.
Kasich, a first-term Republican, has said his $55.5 billion, two-year state budget counts on unspecified savings from lifting union protections to fill an $8 billion hole. GOP leaders argue that Ohio's new law, which Kasich signed last week, will help city officials and superintendents better control their costs at a time when they, too, are feeling budget woes.
The Ohio law affects more than 350,000 public workers, including police officers, teachers and state employees. It allows unions to negotiate wages but not health care, sick time or pension benefits. It bans strikes and gets rid of automatic pay increases, replacing them with merit raises or performance pay.
"We're not going to dance around this," Hagan told reporters at a news conference. "This is in fact about what the governor has done, what the Republicans are doing with one-party rule."
Hagan and state Rep. Mike Foley, D-Cleveland, plan to formally introduce the recall bill next week. Starting a governor recall effort would require a petition signed by 15 percent of the number of voters in the last gubernatorial election. For members of the Legislature, it would require signatures from 15 percent of the number of voters in the last general election in the district. The bill would also apply to other statewide officeholders, except judges.
Hagan said he did not expect the legislation to pass. But, he added, "I think that they would be foolish not to have some hearings and have this discussion. I think it would be even more foolish for them to stand in the way."
Dittoe said that while House Speaker William Batchelder has not seen the language, the Republican leader believes that all bills should have at least one hearing.
The Democrats said at least 17 other states have similar recall provisions, and they got a number of calls from constituents about whether Ohio laws allow for it.
"People wanted to know why if they can do it in Wisconsin, why can't they do it in Ohio -- why can't we do it in Ohio," Foley said. "They wanted that same right here in Ohio."