Attend hearings! Ohio Lame Duck update

Posted Nov. 23, 2016 by

ATTENTION! OCSEA activists are needed to pack the lame duck hearings on Tuesday, Nov. 29. All hearings are held at the Ohio Statehouse. 

  • Stop Unemployment Compensation cuts (H.B. 394) – 9 a.m., Room 121
  • Save state agencies, stop "sunset" provisions (H.B. 329) – 1:30 p.m., Room 114

Ohio legislators have returned to work after a long break. And with their return comes a laundry list of legislation on a timeline to expire with the year’s end. Yes, lame duck session is upon us. And this means that many anti-union legislators preparing to leave office no longer have to answer to constituents and can rush through their top “priorities” with little or no public scrutiny.

From a bill that could eliminate entire state agencies to severe unemployment cuts, there’s a lot of legislation on the table beginning this week that could have serious implications for public employees, unions, working families and more. Right to Work bills for both public and private employees are also on the table but could potentially fizzle out in committee.

OCSEA is closely monitoring all potentially harmful legislation during the lame duck session, whether bills appear to have legs or not. Lame duck sessions can be unpredictable, so OCSEA members and other public employee union members are encouraged to follow these pieces of legislation very closely. Their impact could be far reaching if they pick up steam.

  • Agency Sunset bill - Senate Bill 329. Bill sponsor, Ohio Senate President Keith Faber, said this legislation is a “tool against big government.” But OCSEA knows it’s just an attempt to dismantle state agencies and the important services they provide. Senate Bill 329 has the potential for “sunsetting” or abolishing entire state agencies if they are found to not be “useful” or “effective” by a legislative review committee. This means entire state agencies could be eliminated overnight. A November 15 hearing on the bill had only sponsor testimony from outgoing Sen. Pres. Faber with no questions from the committee. Although that low interest from the committee may be a good sign, OCSEA continues to closely monitor this legislation that would only create more government gridlock. Read the bill.
  • Unemployment Compensation cuts - House Bill 394. Legislators have their sights set on cutting Ohio Unemployment Compensation for Ohioans who are out of work from 26 weeks to as little as 12 weeks. OCSEA and other opponents say reducing the number of weeks allowed would hurt out-of-work Ohioans trying to get back on their feet after a job loss. Legislators tried to lower the number of weeks workers could get the benefit in 2015, a cut that would have slashed 40 percent of workers’ benefits. The attempt was thwarted due to pressure from the unemployed and worker advocates. OCSEA and other advocates continue to apply pressure. Read the bill.

    Attend the Nov. 29 Ohio AFL-CIO Labor Lobby Day to fight UC takeaways.
  • Vision insurance increase - HB 275 – Ohio House Bill 275, the vision bill, would prevent vision benefit administrators, such as VSP, from offering savings to enrollees, including OCSEA members, on non-covered services. Currently, insurance companies have the right to negotiate lower prices on those services and then pass on the savings to enrollees. If the bill passes, those agreements would not be permitted. Ultimately, the law would allow doctors to charge unlimited fees for non-covered services. Read the bill. 

    Read the Union Benefit Trust's proponent testimony standing up for these member benefits.
  • Right to Work bills - HB 583 (public) and HB 377 (private) – While states surrounding Ohio continue to pass Right to Work legislation that harms workers, there are indications that Ohio Republican leaders in the General Assembly may not tackle this issue during the lame duck session. Both the public and private bills have been referred to the Commerce and Labor committees, but there are indications that House Republicans will not be moving them out of committee. House Bill 583, the public sector Right to Work bill, is a very deceptive piece of legislation that attempts to fool union members and their representatives that this legislation would be in the "best interest" of labor. But, just like Senate Bill 5, this anti-union legislation would undermine the right of Ohio public employees to negotiate for fair pay and benefits, plain and simple. The union is monitoring it closely as the committee makes their decision. We expect similar attacks to resurface in 2017 with the election of more anti-union legislators. Read the public sector RTW bill. 

    See the public sector RTW co-sponsors.