State Issue 2 faces final vote as Issues 1, 3 put to voters

Last spring, Oberlin students and community members gathered in Tappan Square to protest SB-5, a bill that would limit the ability of unions to negotiate for pensions and health insurance and ban public employees from striking.

Robin Wasserman, Staff Writer

Arising in the middle of the recent heated and often harsh bipartisan debate about class, the role of government and how to move forward in tough economic times, Ohio’s decision this Tuesday, Nov. 8 on three issues will set the stage for political conversation leading into the 2012 elections.

The most visible of these issues is State Issue 2, a veto referendum on the controversial Senate Bill 5, which would, among other measures, limit the ability of public sector unions to negotiate for pensions and health insurance and ban public employees from striking.

A central piece of legislation for Governor John Kasich, SB-5 is an attempt to balance the state budget in the face of the economic recession by limiting collective bargaining and requiring union members to pay into pension benefits. Since its introduction in the winter of last year, SB-5 has been met with fierce resistance from unions, Democrats, and those who see it as unfairly placing a heavier burden on the working class.

College sophomore Jesse Vogel, Co-Chair of the Oberlin College Democrats and intern for We Are Ohio, the coalition that has led opposition to Issue 2, said, “This is a bill that’s going to make public employees, the people who take care of us everyday… out to be an enemy and dehumanizes them in a certain way.”

Associate Professor of Politics Michael Parkin explained that while there is an economic argument to be made, “it’s a much larger argument and the Republicans and Kasich have targeted one aspect of society instead of targeting 100 percent of society and asking everyone to pay costs.”

Many see SB-5 as a strategy employed by Republicans to take power away from a traditionally Democratic voting base.

“Given the weakness of the economic argument and the fact that unions have shown themselves perfectly willing to negotiate with lower wages and benefits, the poll payback argument looks a lot stronger,” Professor of Politics Chris Howell said.

However, College junior Nick Miller, president of the Oberlin College Republicans and Libertarians, contends that this measure would more reasonably distribute the burden of paying for public workers’ benefits.

Miller explained, “Who doesn’t have an adequate voice are tax payers who have to foot the bill for all this. The taxpayers are a bigger middle class than these people who have enjoyed higher pension and better health care and even a better salary [than private sector workers].”

An Oct. 25 Quinnipiac University poll found that 57 percent of Ohio voters support the repeal of SB-5 by a margin of 25 percent. If this is reflected on Election Day and Issue 2 is opposed, Kasich and Republican leaders may face major difficulties in the 2012 elections.

If voters do reject Issue 2, according to Parkin, “At the Ohio level, Democrats who are running for state House and state Senate have a clear narrative and momentum on their side, which shows that the Republican narrative has been voted down.”

Though not as widely publicized as Issue 2, Issue 1 is an amendment to the state constitution that would raise the age limit for judges to be elected or appointed to the bench from 70 to 75.

Supporters of Issue 1 have cited the increased pool of applicants for judicial positions the amendment would create. “All this does is increase the number of people you can elect,” Miller said.

However, the Ohio Democratic Party has taken a firm stance against the amendment, arguing that it increases entrenchment and decreases turnover on the courts.

College junior Joe Condon, an officer of the Oberlin College Democrats, highlighted that, “There’s been some question as to the timing of the bill, which was brought up in such a way that right now the Ohio Supreme Court has a six-to-one Republican majority.”

Issue 3, another amendment to the state constitution, would ban the state from requiring citizens to buy health care. Introduced as a response to President Barack Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act, the amendment is largely symbolic in nature, as it would not have the power to actually override a federal law.

Condon is against the amendment on the basis that the issue of health care law, “should be taken up at the federal level because it’s a federal law.”

However, many conservatives, including Miller, have argued for the amendment on the basis that it would, “support individual choice.”

Parkin pointed out, “The Supreme Court will deal with [health care law], so passing any legislation about it is a waste of time.”