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Published: Wednesday, 9/27/2006

Effort to roll back workers' comp cuts falls short of signatures

BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU

Voters will not get the opportunity to consider undoing legislative changes that reduced benefits for some injured workers.

The secretary of state's office notified the Committee to Protect Injured Workers, Widows, and Orphans, a coalition of auto workers and trial lawyers, yesterday that they failed to meet the signature threshold to put the issue on the Nov. 7 ballot.

County election boards have verified 179,887 valid signatures from registered voters, but the committee needed 193,740. The committee had two chances to meet the threshold and apparently failed both times.

Senate Bill 7 was passed solely with Republican votes earlier this year. The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation is banking on $100 million a year in savings from the changes.

The ballot issue would have targeted only provisions of the law that critics claim are anti-worker. Among them are provisions cutting by nearly three-quarters the time an injured worker may collect two-thirds of his paycheck while looking for a new job he is physically capable of doing and a higher threshold for collecting benefits when an old workplace injury is aggravated.

The ballot question would also have sought to restore campaign contribution limits enacted by the bureau's oversight commission after pay-to-play questions were raised in connection with a $50 million BWC investment in rare coins with former Toledo-area GOP fund-raiser Tom Noe.

Although it worked to fill the void in the signature count, the committee has maintained that the secretary of state's office had jumped the gun in issuing letters that the committee had come up short. The committee still has challenges to board of election decisions pending in several counties.



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