COLUMBUS, Ohio (Reuters) - The Republican leader of Ohio’s House of Representatives plans to hold at least three weeks of debate on a bill to weigh curbs on public sector workers’ power to bargain, his spokesman said on Friday.
Republican Gov. John Kasich had said he hoped to enact Senate Bill 5, which narrowly passed the state senate on Wednesday, by March 15 when he is scheduled to unveil his two-year budget proposal for fiscal 2012-2013.
But that deadline is unlikely to be met, with the House Commerce and Labor Committee to take up the bill next week for careful consideration, Speaker William Batchelder’s spokesman Mike Dittoe said.
Batchelder revealed his plan for a thorough debate on the Senate-passed 294-page bill in a radio interview.
Ohio’s bill removes health care and some other benefits from the bargaining process for unions representing some 300,000 workers including police, firefighters, and public school teachers. It also denies them the right to strike.
The vote in the Ohio Senate on Wednesday was 17 to 16 with six Republicans joining Democrats in voting against.
Outside the State Capitol in Columbus, protesters shouted “Shame on you” and “We’ll remember this.”
Thousands of pro-union protesters have shown up at the Capitol this week to decry the bill as union-busting, though the protests have not been as large as those in Wisconsin.
A Republican proposal in Wisconsin to strip most public sector collective bargaining rights has been stalled after Democrats in the state senate fled the state to deny majority Republicans a quorum.
The larger Republican majorities in Ohio’s general assembly preclude such a maneuver by Democratic lawmakers.
The Ohio bill may be modified, Dittoe said, and House members plan to clear up misconceptions about it.
“We’re trying to give more flexibility back to local governments to handle labor costs and balance budgets without raising taxes and without laying off workers,” he said. Republicans say the bill is needed to deal with a projected $8 billion budget deficit.
In Indiana, the general assembly was not in session. But there are between six and 10 proposals -- ranging from right-to-work legislation to private school vouchers -- that Democrats say threaten workers and that they pledge to block.
Of the 40 Democrats in the 100-member House, two show up to make sure the House cannot act without a 67-vote quorum, with the rest remaining in Illinois where they fled on February 21. Republicans hold a solid 37-13 majority in the Indiana senate.
Indiana Republicans passed a measure on Thursday that would levy $250-a-day fines on absent lawmakers beginning on Monday.
In the past, such fines have been rescinded as a part of a compromise, but Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma pointedly said that may not be the case this time.
“Those kinds of statements don’t make it any easier to bring an amiable resolution to this,” the Democrats’ spokesman John Schorg said.
Writing by Andrew Stern; Editing by Peter Bohan