Gillmor’s politicking on SB 5 a disservice to constituents

Senate Bill 5 received approval in the Ohio Senate March 2, by the narrowest of margins (17-16).

Despite a 13-seat majority in the Senate, six Republicans joined all 10 Senate Democrats in opposition of the bill, which aims to curb the collective bargaining rights of nearly 350,000 Ohio public workers.

Supporters deem it necessary if Ohio is to tackle a two-year deficit of $8 billion and the bill would unquestionably save the state money.

A recent Columbus Dispatch study concluded, that had the legislation been enacted in 2010, Ohio could have saved about $750 million.

State Sen. Karen Gillmor, R-Tiffin, sided with her own party and cast what amounted to be the deciding vote on the highly-divisive issue.

Afterward, she was so convicted about her role in saving the state what could amount to a billion dollars or more, she issued the following statement: “In this era of term limits, the process by which Senate Bill 5 ... proceeded through the Senate was a radical departure from the process by which previous pieces of employment law affecting citizens’ livelihoods, children, healthcare, retirement and work environments have progressed.”

The senator continues, “Members of the Ohio Senate Republican Caucus were given only one day to reflect upon the impact of a 99-page omnibus amendment to a 475-page bill. This is not government at its finest.”

Senate Bill 5 emerged from committee and onto the Senate floor only after Senate President Tom Niehaus, R-New Richmond, removed a pair of the bill’s opponents from two key committees.

Once on the floor, the bill was discussed for only a few hours before state Senators voted on the issue.

Mrs. Gillmor has a point.

So, if the Senator felt such opposition to the process by which Senate Bill 5 was brought onto the floor, why didn’t she do what nearly a quarter of her peers did and vote no on the issue?

I intended to pose that very question — a fair one, I think — to Mrs. Gillmor when I phoned her office more than 10 times in two weeks, without a single response.

I’m not about to take a public position on this issue. That’s a good way to alienate readership and I haven’t read the bill in its entirety.

Rep. Dave Burke, R-Marysville, said it best Monday while addressing Logan County Republicans, “There’s both good and bad in this bill.”

He’s probably right. The bill is neither a direct attack on public employees nor is it only about balancing the state’s budget.

If Mrs. Gillmor feels strongly enough to vote on a bill to unravel nearly three decades’ worth of collective bargaining in Ohio, then she should feel strongly enough about the issue to defend her vote in public.

What we’re left with, instead, is a clear rank-and-file Republican Senator intent to vote with her majority party, but careful not to upset potential voters that may disagree with her.

I’m sure her ‘Well, I voted yes, but wasn’t happy about it’ attitude has nothing to do with the fact she’s up for re-election in 2012.

A democracy isn’t always about getting everything one wants, rather it’s about getting what’s best for everyone. If Mrs. Gillmor believes Senate Bill 5, as presented, benefits all Ohioans, then she should defend it publicly.

Her unwillingness to do so, both in the statement she released not 12 hours after the bill passed the Senate and her continued disregard for this reporter’s phone calls, is a disservice to the voters in her district.

The process by which Senate Bill 5 emerged from the Ohio Senate may not have been government at its finest, but Mrs. Gillmor’s words and actions (or lack thereof) since the bill’s passage are indeed politicking at its finest.

And that’s unfortunate.