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Judge halts law on union dues spending

COLUMBUS - A Franklin County Common Pleas Court judge yesterday halted implementation of part of a new state law prohibiting the union spending of members' dues on political campaigns.

The victory for labor came the same day it ran out of time in its petition effort to ask voters in November to repeal the entire campaign-finance reform law. The law also quadruples to $10,000 the amount individuals may contribute to candidates and cracked down on anonymously financed political ads.

Judge John Bender, a Republican, issued a preliminary injunction placing only the section of the law restricting the use of union member dues on hold until he makes a final ruling in the challenge brought by the United Auto Workers, AFL-CIO, and Ohio Education Association. The rest of the law takes effect today.

"[House Bill 1] appears to remain a significant infringement on the First Amendment rights of a labor organization...," wrote Judge Bender.

The trial is scheduled for April, 2006.

That means the authority for labor organizations to directly spend members' dues to affect the political process will be at least preserved through much of the 2006 election cycle.

Races for governor, Supreme Court justice, and other statewide posts will be on the primary and general election ballots.

"This law makes hundreds of changes," said Don McTigue, attorney for the UAW and ALF-CIO.

"We only asked for relief from the courts on one provision because it was that provision of law that was struck down in 1998 by the Franklin County court of appeals as violating the constitutional rights of unions and union members.

"This is deja vu all over again," he said. "The state has no better justification now than it did six years ago to restrain the political speech of union members."

Ohio law already prohibits direct participation of corporations in the political process, but, for the first time, the law going into effect today opens the door for corporations to finance "electioneering communication" like those seen most often recently in state supreme court races.

Contact Jim Provance at:

jprovance@theblade.com

or 614-221-0496.

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