In Ohio: Play Ball

Well, I’m still Inside the Beltway where it’s tough to get a decent cup of coffee before 4 a.m. and where the Internet access, even in an upscale hotel, is spotty at best. Who knows. Maybe Mubarak is vacationing here.

And there is more hot air in the hallways of Congress right now than on the streets of DC. It’s like, ah, 30, with a drizzle that makes you long for the snow in Northeast Ohio. By the way, they opened the baseball season here yesterday in miserable weather. Good luck in Cleveland today. Shouldn’t baseball be played in the spring and in warm weather? Oh well. Play ball.

Saying all that,  I may be forced to take an abbreviated look at the Cherry Blossoms followed by a more extended happy hour.

And while I’m on the road, I have to rely on the lamestream media to do the heavy lifting required to keep the masses informed. Here’s the story that caught my eye early this a.m. from The Plain Dealer, “Gov. Kasich signs Senate Bill 5 as supporters and opponents gear up for huge referendum“:

Gov. John Kasich signed a controversial collective-bargaining overhaul into law Thursday evening, setting off a statewide election campaign that promises to be one of the biggest ballot battles in recent memory.

With the bill officially on the books, opponents of Senate Bill 5 — which dramatically reduces the power of unionized state workers, including firefighters and teachers — moved quickly with plans to put the issue before voters by launching a campaign organization called “We Are Ohio.”

The campaign will coordinate efforts to write a ballot issue, gather signatures to place a referendum on the November ballot and raise money to persuade Ohioans to throw out SB 5.

“This is going to be a very big campaign,” We Are Ohio spokesman Dennis Willard said, noting that that the collective bargaining debate is drawing attention from supporters and opponents from other states as well as from numerous interest groups here.

The new group is heavily influenced by Democratic and union leaders but was created to stand alone from the party and any single labor group, in part to try to attract others who do not subscribe to Democratic politics but who oppose SB 5.

Dale Butland, a long-time political consultant to unions, said he expects both sides to raise millions and predicted that supporters of the bill, which includes chambers of commerce and businesses, will out-spend unions.

“Obviously, to the unions and the to Democrats, this is an existential threat,” he said. “On the other side, there will be corporate money flooding into this place.”

Butland predicted supporters of the new law could raise $20 million or more.

“I don’t think the anti-Senate Bill 5 side can match that” he said.

When I’m Inside the Beltway I meet, talk to and work with people who are very liberal. And they support all unions — except unions that represent public employees, particularly teachers. And part of that is the fact that teachers are now the easy targets of education reform. Hey, nothing else in 30 years has worked to improve public education so it must be the teachers’ fault–and that of the teachers unions.

Anyway, my guess is that to some extent the referendum in Ohio over the collective bargaining law — if it gets to that point — will focus national attention not just on the rights (or not) of public employees to negotiate items beyond wages. But it will once again focus attention on teachers and the sorry state of education not just in the state, but throughout the nation.

Play ball!

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