Patrolman Tim Steedman wears a shirt against SB 5 as he and other Toledo police officers stand in front of Gladieux Meadows at the Lucas County Republican Party's 2011 Lincoln Day Dinner in April.
COLUMBUS — The coalition seeking to repeal Ohio’s new law restricting public employee collective bargaining rights said Friday they’ve already gathered 714,137 signatures.
That’s more than three times the 231,149 necessary that would be needed to put the question on the Nov. 7 ballot with about two weeks left to go before the filing deadline.
“We know there are still more petitions to be turned in,’’ said Melissa Fazekas, spokesman for the We Are Ohio coalition of public and private sector unions and other organizations.
Signature-gathering events are expected across the state this weekend, she said. Petitions must be filed by June 30.
“In Lucas County, we had the required number of signatures rather rapidly,’’ said Dan Wagner, president of the Toledo Police Patrolman’s Association. “You have a large union base in Lucas County, so there was an all-out effort in both Lucas and Wood counties.
“I know we’re going to have a very large number collected from both counties, and I think you’ll see similar numbers in Cuyahoga and Franklin,’’ he said.
The traditional rule of thumb when filing petitions for ballot issues is to file about twice as many as the number of valid signatures of registered voters than is required. That allows room to still reach the ballot if a large number of signatures are declared invalid by county boards of election for a variety of reasons.
Pro SB 5 supporters attend the Defend Jobs, Defend Education rally at the University of Toledo in March.
Sen. Shannon Jones (R., Springboro), sponsor of Senate Bill 5, said supporters of the law always knew the issue would make the ballot and have been preparing accordingly, even if their efforts have not been readily apparent.
A political action committee and non-profit organization, both called Building a Better Ohio, have been created, but the organization has been largely silent so far. Ms. Jones said she doesn’t expect the campaign to begin in earnest until Labor Day.
“I don’t think it’s an issue of momentum,” she said. “There’s a time and a place for a campaign, and when that time presents itself, we’ll have strong grassroots support of folks who will talk about the benefits of Senate Bill 5, why we need it, and the choice before the voters will be clear.
“We can either continue to do things the way we’ve been doing the way [them], or we can do things better so that we don’t return to more increased taxes or job losses and return to prosperity in this state,’’ she said.
Among its numerous provisions, Senate Bill 5 prohibits all public employees from striking, limits what they can negotiate, prohibits local governments from paying any portion of an employee’s share of his pension benefits, require employees to pay at least 15 percent of their health care premiums, and prohibit the automatic deduction of “fair share’’ fees from public workers who refuse to join a union.