The results of what was easily the most-watched contest anywhere in the nation last night were really no surprise. In a statewide referendum that attracted nationwide funding for both sides and coverage from as far away as the London-based Financial Times, Ohio voters resoundingly rejected Republican Gov. John Kasich’s proposed reforms dealing with state employees that were lumped in a single measure known as Issue 2.
With labor-lubricated forces spending more than $30 million to only $9 million spent by the Kasich team, 63% of the Buckeye State voters rejected the reforms that were enacted earlier this year by the Republican-controlled state legislature: banning strikes by all 350,000 state government workers, outlawing collective bargaining among state employees, forcing more meritocratic calculations on pay for state employees, reducing workers’ sick leave and limiting time-off to five days a week, and requiring all public employees to pay 15% of their health care premiums and 10% of their salaries toward pensions.
To no one’s surprise, unions and the liberal press trumpeted the defeat of reform as a major blow to Kasich and the Republicans. As AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told reporters once the results were in, “Ohio sent a message to every politician out there: Go in and make war on your employees rather than make jobs with your employees, and you do so at your own peril.”
But the next chapter in the Ohio saga has yet to be written. Even before the vote, when polls showed Issue 2 facing defeat, Republican sources in Columbus told HUMAN EVENTS that they fully expected Kasich and Republican lawmakers to attempt to revive the reforms in 2012, but to deploy different tactics in the next round.
Rather than lump all the reforms together in one piece of legislation that made an easy target for opponents, GOPers feel that the next session of the legislature should see each Issue 2 item offered as a separate measure. Noting that he knew Democrats who agreed that state employees should pay more for their health care, one Republican legislator told us before the vote that “putting an end to binding arbitration in the same package invited an assault from all of the unions—including the policemen’s unions, which almost always back Republicans, and the firefighters, who back us most of the time.”
Kasich himself signaled he was ready for a rematch, declaring: “I’m not a guy who goes and hides. That’s not the way I was raised.”
Other Major Initiatives
On the same day Issue 2 went down, Ohio voters resoundingly voted for Issue 3, which was the latest strike by a state against the Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare, and its requirement that everyone carry health insurance or pay a penalty for not doing so. The measure, which won by a margin of 2-to-1 statewide, is an amendment to the state constitution that will “preserve the freedom of Ohioans to choose their health care and health care coverage.”
Along with setting the stage for another challenge by state law to ObamaCare, the enactment of Issue 3 was hailed by Ohio Republicans as a sign that state voters have turned against President Obama and liberal Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, who voted for the President’s health care package.
In Mississippi, the highly controversial “personhood” referendum to define a fertilized egg as a legal person went down to defeat by a margin of 55% to 45%. Critics of the measure say that, along with outlawing abortion under any circumstances, the proposed measure known as Proposition 26 would have led to outlawing the birth control pill and morning-after pills. The legal and medical communities were divided on the “personhood” proposal and a number of pro-life politicians—notably Republican Gov. Haley Barbour—would not endorse it. Also taking no position on Proposition 26 were the bishops of the Roman Catholic and Episcopal dioceses of Jackson.
As of last night, it was unclear whether Washington State voters would support a referendum to privatize the state’s alcohol system. The Evergreen State is one of eight in the nation in which liquor stores are run by the state Liquor Control Board, a policy that began during Prohibition. Because its largest financial backer was the state wholesale liquor store known as Costco, Proposition 1183 was dubbed “the Costco amendment,” and supporters raised more than $22 million—the most ever spent on a statewide initiative in Washington.
Maine voters chose quite decisively (60% of the vote) to restore their 38-year-old rule of Election Day registration. Earlier this year, the Republican-controlled legislature repealed that rule and instead required that voters register two business days before an Election Day. During the campaign, State GOP Chairman Charles Webster defended the new rule and charged that the state’s longtime same-day rule had led to widespread voter fraud, notably among college students.