Yes, you read that correctly. The fact that two Tea Party Republicans introduced multiple “right to work (for less)” bills is a good thing for progressivism and organized labor in Ohio. I’m not joking. And I don’t mean it was a good thing because it keeps us vigilant and reminds people of the good social progress organized labor has brought us, that’s what Labor Day is for. No, I mean it was good if you realize why they introduced the legislation in the first place.
Almost immediately after the defeat of Issue 2, the referendum on Senate Bill 5, a coalition of conservative groups in Ohio largely identified with the Tea Party “movement” announced an effort to place a “right to work” constitutional amendment on the ballot with the goal of gutting the political influence organized labor has in the workplace or in the Statehouse. At the time, the group set the November 2012 general election ballot as their targeted election. The only problem was, despite starting a year ahead of their goal, they couldn’t get enough signatures to put it on the ballot. One suspected reason? Neither Kasich nor the rest of the Ohio Republican Party wanted a right-to-work issue on the ballot jeopardizing any chance Mitt Romney had to carry Ohio. I mean, they couldn’t imagine a worse issue to have on a ballot for their candidates given the historic thumping Senate Bill 5 got, and that was a pared down anti-collective bargaining bill that they thought they could at least get given the unpopularity of public unions. Sensing that both Sherrod Brown and President Obama were vulnerable in Ohio, Kasich and the Ohio Republican Party weren’t ready to cede the State to the Democratic ticket by having a poisonous “right to work” bill on the ballot that would doom the GOP ticket in a key battleground state in a presidential election year.
Unable to get the support they needed for the last election, then the Tea Party coalition said they were targeting 2013, even though with one full year in the effort had only yielded less than a third of the required signatures. Then they admitted that if they couldn’t get the nearly 300k additional signatures they still needed to get it on the ballot this summer in time for 2013, they’d shoot for 2014, but they expected to gear up their signature gathering this summer.
Look, John Kasich practices politics in way that makes the “Red Wedding” in “Game of Thrones” look tame in comparison. What do you honestly think are the chances that John Kasich wants to see an anti-labor constitutional amendment on the same ballot as his re-election campaign? Zero. Period. If there is anything John Kasich believes in, it’s the importance of himself and his political survival. He will never, ever let that make the ballot in 2014. He can’t afford to. And the Tea Party knows this. They know that if they force Kasich’s hand by putting it on the ballot in 2014, it’s probably doomed as he will have the Ohio Republican Party quietly work to defeat it, and he could publicly oppose it. Hell, he’d get more votes to oppose it than support it, and it would give him an opportunity to try to shed his SB 5 image. So the November 2014 election is probably not viable for the Tea Party’s effort.
When Republicans gained seats after the 2012, they technically won such a supermajority that under Ohio’s constitution, they could put a constitutional amendment on the ballot without petition signatures on a party line vote. Enter HJR 5, which was introduced last month by State Representatives Roegner and Maag, which, if passed, would legally allow the Tea Party’s constitutional amendment go to the ballot this November, thus sparing the Tea Party from ever actually getting the signatures to put it on the ballot. The other was HB 151, which had the effect of enacting the Tea Party’s proposal as a statute, thus saving it from a vote from the public, well, except for the likely referendum that would ensue.
So, now do you get it? Maag and Roegner, both Tea Party Republicans, didn’t just introduce these bills in the vacuum. There’s a reason why the Tea Party has been thumping its chest over Kasich. It’s not just the Medicaid expansion, and I really don’t think it has to do with Matt Borges. It has to do with there being an Ohio Republican Party that is hardwired by Kasich, who does not want to have to deal with “right to work” legislation as Governor or on the campaign trail and Americans for Prosperity, who are backed by corporate interests who don’t care about Kasich’s self-preservation nearly as much as they do about going after labor. That’s been the real turf war that’s been going on the right in Ohio.
The only problem is the Tea Party is so weak it should be called the Water Party. Look, the only reason Maag and Roegner would introduce HJR 5 to target a November 2013 election date is because the Tea Party knows: 1) if it’s 2014, Kasich will undermine the campaign so much it can’t win, and 2) it is incredibly unlikely that they can get the valid signatures in time for 2013. That’s why Roegner and Maag introduced a bill to allow the proposal to bypass the signature process. It was already a long shot expecting it to pass on even a party line vote (Senate Bill 5 did not even pass with all GOP support). This was, in essence, the Tea Party’s “right to work” Hail Mary.
The only problem is that Issue 2 has made the issue so politically radioactive for Republicans that they do not even want to vote on putting the issue on the ballot at all. As Join The Future pointed out, not a single Republican on the committee asked a single question in yesterday’s testimony. As soon as the hearing was over, the Republican chairman quickly declared that there was a lack of support for either proposal in the committee, so the sponsors should not expect any further hearings (or presumably a vote). Chairman Kurt Schuring declared that the unanimous consensus of his committee was to let the bill die.
So the Tea Party “Hail Mary” failed. They now have a tough choice. Try the impossible task of getting 300k signatures to Jon Husted’s office by July 3rd, without the aid of Kasich or the Ohio Republican Party to make the ballot in 2013, continue to shoot for the 2014 election and try to find a way to prevent Kasich from dooming that campaign, too, or shelving the whole thing until at least after the 2014 elections.
And that’s why yesterday’s hearing on the “Right to Work (For Less)” bills was such a good thing for the progressive movement. The bills themselves was a last ditch effort by the Tea Party to still make it to the ballot because they do not have the public support to get the signatures to get on the ballot on their own. When that failed, it did not just table the legislation, it likely put the entire effort on ice… at least until 2015.