COLUMBUS - A pair of Ohio lawmakers are preparing bills that would have Ohio follow the lead of neighbors Michigan and Indiana in becoming a "right-to-work" state.
Reps. Ron Maag (R-Lebanon) and Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson) circulated memos Tuesday asking colleagues to sign on as co-sponsors to separate bills that together would bar public and private-sector workers from having to pay fees in lieu of dues to workplace unions they refuse to join.
This occurs the same time a separate petition effort continues to put a proposed right-to-work constitutional amendment on the ballot.
Republican Gov. John Kasich and GOP leaders of both the House and Senate, however, were reluctant Tuesday to embrace the controversial idea, which Democrats characterized as a Senate Bill 5 redux.
Democrats were referring to the GOP-passed collective bargaining restrictions that voters soundly rejected in 2011.
"I'm supportive of any member putting in any bill that they want to put in. Nothing further," House Speaker Bill Batchelder (R-Medina) said. "We will obviously visit with the Senate and the governor's office to see if they have support for it."
Senate President Keith Faber (R-Celina) also was noncommittal, noting he knows of no similar effort in his chamber.
"It's news to me," he said.
Maag and Roegner will hold a news conference today to formally unveil their proposals.
In the wake of the stinging rebuke of Senate Bill 5, Kassich has been extremely cautious in this area.
"There have been nearly 300 bills introduced so far this year," spokesman Rob Nichols said. "We don't weigh in on all of them, and it would be premature to do so on these. The governor has a big agenda that's moving through the legislature, and he continues to work on it."
The only announced candidate for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2014, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, wasted little time tying the move to "Gov. Kasich's allies."
"I stood against these attacks on our everyday heroes and Ohio's middle class when I voted against Gov. Kasich's Senate Bill 5," he said. "As governor, I promise to stand up for the working families in Ohio, and stand behind the middle class that keeps our economy strong."
Becky Williams, president of Service Employees International Union District 1199, called on Kasich and GOP legislative leaders to block the effort in their ranks. "This will hurt people we trust, like librarians, nurses, mental health providers, social workers, and so many others," she said. "This is just another attempt by CEOs and corporate interests to end unions, as we know them, so they can tip the balance even more in their favor at the expense of the middle class."
Chris Littleton of Ohioans for Workplace Freedom applauded the legislative moves but stressed that introduction of bills in the House will not slow his group's effort to put a constitutional amendment before voters.
"We wouldn't put all our eggs in the basket of the legislature," he said. "I'm fine with whatever makes this law in Ohio."
Littleton said it would be a "long shot" for the group to gather the roughly 380,000 signatures of registered voters needed by July 3, the deadline to qualify for the November ballot.
If the question qualifies for next year, it would appear on the ballot at the same time as Kasich and lawmakers.