Emily McCord: Let’s begin with the news this week regarding Issue 2 on the ballot-that’s the attempt to repeal the law limiting collective bargaining. So, bring us to speed on what happened with this.
Karen Kasler: There have been a lot of discussions that seem to be happening behind the scenes about how to get this resolved before this goes to the ballot to voters in about 80 or so days, in a little over 2 months. There was some talk about how some Republican leaders were trying to get union leaders to deal with this. And finally this week, Governor John Kasich, as well as speaker Bill Batchelder and Senate President Tom Neihaus all came out and had a press conference saying 'we want to have a meeting Friday morning and talk about this with union leaders and see if we can come to some sort of agreement'. There were no promises made by the Republican leaders and the leaders of the We Are Ohio coalition, who put the issue on the ballot, then responded by saying 'we represent 1.3 million Ohioans that signed petitions and the only thing that is acceptable to us is if the legislators agree immediately to repeal Senate Bill 5 and then we can start from square one'. That of course is not what happened. The meeting came and went on Friday with the Republican leaders showing up and gesturing to an empty table where they had put placards for all of the union folks that they had invited to attend. Of course, again, the union folks say that the only thing that is acceptable them is that Senate Bill 5 be repealed in its entirety.
EM: So, was there any response from Republican leaders regarding the union folks not showing up?
KK: Well, they gestured a lot to the empty table and made a big show of the table being there with all of the placards of the biggest unions, public employee unions in Ohio. But I think this was not a surprise to anybody. This press conference at this meeting that the Republican leadership proposed, that the leaders of the unions said they weren't going to attend, I mean, this was definitely a visual show. I think that was the intention over all for the Republicans that did propose this. Of course, the union leaders are saying what is important to them, since they feel they were locked out of the legislative process from the beginning, is that the whole of Senate Bill 5 is repealed. If that was repealed, then they would be willing to take the referendum scheduled for the November 8th ballot off the ballot. But now we're dealing with a time crunch because that all has to happen by August 30. I talked to Senator Bill Seitz, a Republican from Cincinnati, who is opposed to Senate Bill 5, and he supports the union members in this action that the whole of the bill needs to be repealed before anything could happen in terms of taking issue 2 off the ballot.
EM: When you're talking to other Republicans who are in support of the collective bargaining law, are you getting a sense as to why they wanted this compromise negotiation now?
KK: I think you have to look at the polls. Even though Governor Kasich said that this is not an attempt to do anything because 'we think we're going to lose', I think you need to look at the polls. Quinnipiac polls from last month indicated that for the most part Issue 2, the collective bargaining reform, was opposed by 56% of voters, 32% supported it, and of course, you've got this 12% that didn't know, or is undecided. There's a lot of work to do in 80 days for people who like Senate Bill 5 to try to bring those folks who are undecided or are against it around, and it's almost impossible at this point to do that. So, I think you have to look at the polls and see that right now, Issue 2 is losing, which is what the union leaders want. Senate bill 5 really stands a good shot, at this point in time according to polls, of being rejected. So, I think that certainly is something that is driving things from behind the scenes maybe. And Republican leaders are saying that they want to do this because there was so much frustration in the debt crisis talks that people weren't sitting down and talking. That we were watching this on TV, watching both sides speak independently of one another, and that people seems to be frustrated that we couldn't get together. So, they're position it is as 'hey, we're just trying to get together and talk and try to work out some of these differences'. But union leaders are saying ‘there's nothing to work out and the repeal of Senate Bill 5 has to happen before any other discussion can go forward'.
Do you think there will be any other attempts for compromsie before the August 30th deadline?
I don't think so. We only have a couple of days, a little more than a week, so I don't think there are going to be any other public attempts at this. But we keep hearing from Governor Kasich and other Republicans that the door is open and that talks could happen at any point. But union leaders are saying, at this point, they really feel strongly obligated to go ahead an dhave a vote because so many people signed the petition from people wanting the vote. And of course, they've got the polls on their side, there's really little leverage that the Republican leaderships seems to have right now. So, it looks like we're headed right into what will probably be a pretty expensive and very nasty campaign.