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Published: Saturday, 8/13/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Referendum on Senate Bill 5 will stay on ballot

Backers say time has passed for compromise on law restricting collective bargaining

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS -- The group seeking to kill Ohio's new law restricting collective bargaining by government workers said Friday that the time for compromise passed a long time ago.

Issue 2, the voter-initiated referendum on Senate Bill 5, will remain on the Nov. 8 ballot, said We Are Ohio, the largely Democratic and labor-fueled effort.

"We didn't want to pursue the citizens' veto,'' spokesman Melissa Fazekas said. "It wasn't our first choice. Hardworking Ohioans have sacrificed wages and benefits and tried to convince the governor that this was a flawed law that goes too far.

"But now it's too late," she said. "We recognize our responsibility to the more than 1.3 million supporters who placed Issue 2 on the ballot, and we need to let the voters decide."

Ms. Fazekas said the organization felt obligated to respond to "rumors'' that there had been back-door negotiations involving both sides that might have led to the removal of the Senate Bill 5 referendum from the ballot. She said there had never been any talks involving anyone within We Are Ohio who was in a position to make such a decision.

Jason Mauk, spokesman for the pro-Senate Bill 5 Building a Better Ohio, confirmed there had been no direct conversations between the two organizations.

"That's not to say that conversations didn't occur with interested parties with connections to both sides about the possibility of an agreement,'' he said. "But they did not involve staff members of this campaign. We are still open to having negotiations. We will meet anytime and anyplace until the window of opportunity closes."

Meanwhile, a lawsuit attempting to block a second ballot issue, a challenge to President Obama's health-care law, was blocked itself Friday by the Ohio Supreme Court.

The high court unanimously found that Brian Rothenberg, executive director of the liberal advocacy group Progress Ohio, failed in his challenge of the petitions that qualified the proposed Ohio Healthcare Freedom constitutional amendment for the ballot as Issue 3.

The court determined that petitions could not be invalidated simply because paid petition circulators listed the firm paying them on the petition as "the person employing'' them instead of the committee heading the effort.

If passed, the amendment would allow Ohioans to reject mandates under Mr. Obama's signature health-care reform law that will require all Americans to acquire health insurance through their employers, the open insurance market, government programs such as Medicaid and Medicare, or state-run pools in which insurers compete for customers.

Ohio and 25 other states are involved in separate litigation over whether the federal government overstepped its own constitutional authority by imposing health-care mandates on individuals and employers. Federal courts across the nation have come down on both sides of the issue with the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately expected to settle the issue.

The latest ruling came Friday when the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta sided with the challenging states and struck down the individual mandate portion of the law. That conflicts with a June decision from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati that upheld the mandate.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.



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