The heated debate over Senate Bill 5 and its overhaul of the rights of Ohio public workers, including teachers, firefighters and law enforcement officers, to collectively bargain escalated yesterday when Governor John Kasich signed the legislation into law. The bill removes health care and benefits from collective bargaining, makes it illegal to strike, does away with binding arbitration, requires public workers to pay more for their share of health insurance and pension benefits, no longer allows union contracts to require nonunion members to pay dues, and replaces automatic pay increases with a merit based system. It also allows the Governor, Auditor of State or the Board of Regents to suspend public employee salaries and modify or terminate collective bargaining agreements if they determine that a fiscal emergency or watch exists. Opponents of Senate Bill 5, which include public employee unions, private sector unions and other progressive groups, along with the Ohio Democratic Party, have united to form a political action committee, "We Are Ohio," that will raise funds and coordinate efforts to gather the necessary 231,149 signatures in 90 days to place a referendum on the November, 2011 ballot to overturn the law. If the Secretary of State determines that sufficient valid signatures have been collected, the law is suspended until the November election. It is expected that this effort will garner national attention, particularly for the Democratic Party and its base, as the 2012 Presidential Election draws near.
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