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Medina 2014 pick for SOTS: Batchelder to defend Kasich on 'right-to-work' bills

Gov. Kasich, right, with Speaker Batchelder, center, and Finance Chairman Ron Amstutz.
Gov. Kasich, right, with Speaker Batchelder, center, and Finance Chairman Ron Amstutz.
Ohio House

Governor John R. Kasich announced Monday that the venue for his 2014 State of the State [SOTS] address will be Medina, home to term limited and retiring House Speaker William Batchelder, whose long political career arc at age 72 started in the Minority Caucus of the people's chamber and crested as the leader of a 60-seat Republican supermajority there.

Seen here at Gov. Kasich's 2013 year-end review, Speaker Batchelder, right, says Kasich is doing "just one heck of a job."
John Michael Spinelli

Kasich and Batchelder: An alignment of hearts and souls

Senate President Keith Faber and the speaker were asked to convene a joint session on Mon., Feb. 24, in Medina at the Medina Performing Arts Center so Gov. Kasich, running for reelection this year, can deliver his fourth SOTS. By selecting Medina, it promises to be a tribute to the life, times and political prowess of the speaker. A kindred spirit to the go-go, CEO-style Republican Kasich in political ideology and religious belief, Speaker Batchelder, the 101st in Ohio history, says the governor is "doing just a heck of a job."

Kasich Press Secretary Rob Nichols said as a great city in the state and the hometown of the speaker as he starts the last year of his distinguished 46-year career in public service, "it's a great way to celebrate it." After Kasich delivered his first address in 2011 in the Statehouse, the decision was made to take state government to Ohioans. Since then Ohio's 69th governor has delivered the address at Wells Academy, a public elementary school in Steubenville, and the Veterans Memorial Civic and Convention Center in Lima, home to Senate President Faber.

Throughout Gov. Kasich's political career, being seen as a reformer of government, always remodeling it to first cater to private interests before the public interest, has won him big political dividends. Whether in Washington, where he served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 18 years, or now at the state level, the perennial reformer and showman governor has learned that praising Republican leaders always backtracks to his leadership talents.

Since his Tea Party fueled election in 2010, Gov. Kasich's SOTS addresses, only the first of which was delivered from the traditional location for such speeches, the House of Representative in Columbus, have increasingly morphed into political evangelism tent shows. What could be his last SOTS, if voters decide not to rehire this November based on his poor performance as a job creator, the Medina show will provide a proper tribute to a House speaker who can protect his back before Election Day by taking two bills introduced in his chamber that would make Ohio a right to work state off the table.

Following Gov. Kasich's 2013 year-end review held before a crowd of Ohio chamber officials in downtown Columbus, CGE and other reporters asked Speaker Batchelder some questions.

His answers to questions about right to work, whether a Constitutional Modernization Committee should include a provision to recall the governor and other statewide officials and other issues are here:

Right to Work

At Gov. Kasich's 2012 year-end review meeting with reporters, his response to a question on his support of right-to-work legislation, he dodged the question, saying he was wearing "blinders."

A few weeks ago, when Gov. Kasich stopped taking questions from reporters, CGE asked Speaker Batchelder what he would do with two bills members of his Majority Caucus introduced that would make Ohio the 26th state to cross over to right-to-work, which Republicans say will create jobs and raise incomes while Democrats say it will do just the opposite.

"At this point, it's off the table. The bottom line is that these proposals are something that has to have a lot of time spent on, and there are some states that have made progress ... other states that haven't, what's the difference, I'm not sure. We have other things that we just have to work at, and this would be long term," Batchelder said. "The Governor of Texas is a friend of mine, so I'm not going to say anything critical about Texas or the governor, but I think what we're looking at is an effort to do some other things first."

It's believed by some that the beating at the ballot box Kasich took in 2011, when his support of legislation [SB 5] that gutted collective bargaining for public employees was defeated nearly 2-1, scared him off of outright support of right-to-work legislation in order to not wake the sleeping dogs that chewed up the referendum ballot issue on the bill, Issue Two. Two GOP-introduced right-to-work bills sitting in the House would sink unions and add Ohio to the list of 26 other states who have such laws, which enable so-called "free riders" who benefit from union negotiated wages and benefits but are protected from not pay union dues.

If Gov. Kasich wins a second term in November, which is expected given the power of incumbency, he could easily sign a right-to-work bill into law by year's end with the help of a GOP supermajority legislature. Speaker Batchelder, who will retire at year's end, and Senate President Faber, who has dreams of following in Kasich's footsteps, can any bill that comes before their chambers without fear of Democrats stopping their agenda, which behind closed doors includes passing right-to-work legislation.

If Gov. Kasich should lose in November, an unlikely outcome but one that could happen if Democrats can increase voter turnout in concert with the poaching of voters from Kasich's traditional Republican base by a strong third-party candidate like Libertarian Charlie Earl, the fear among union members and their Democrats and progressive allies is that Kasich and his supermajority GOP lame duck legislature will fast-track right-to-work bills before the new governor—mostly likely Ed FitzGerald, the Democratic candidate—takes over.

Kasich, of course, has every intention of jumping into the 2016 GOP presidential pool if he wins in November. Speaker Batchelder believes Republicans will maintain their margins in both chambers, so for Kasich to take off for the national spotlight, now enhanced by the tremendous troubles New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie finds himself in as legal authorities bear down on him and his staff over shutting down the George Washington Bridge as a means of exacting political retribution to a mayor who chose to not endorse him for reelection last year, part of his payment to spend time on national politics instead of running the state may be to convert Ohio to a right-to-work state.

Term Limits

Unlike Wisconsin, where Scott Walker was forced to defend himself in a recall election a year into his four-year term, which he won by an even larger margin, Ohio has no such clause in its Constitution. Otherwise, Gov. Kasich would likely have faced the same consequence following his support of remodeling public worker collective bargaining laws, as was the case for Gov. Walker. The speaker thinks it ought to stay that way.

Answering CGE's question on whether he thinks the Constitutional Modernization Commission should propose a recall clause for the governor and other statewide office holders, Speaker Batchelder, said that probably won't happen.

"They [Wisconsinites] are more political up there. No. I really don't," he said. "Now, I was charged with the responsibility of impeaching the attorney general, so I haven't always been, what you call militant about those things. But, that's a toughie, that really is. People vote ... We used to have two-year terms for governor's and constitutional officers, and the public, generally, that was a pretty overwhelming vote to do away with that and have four year terms. Those are things, I think, that we want a whole lot of hearings on. We have wonderful people on the modernization group and I'm hopeful that we're gong to hit the ground and have real concentrated hearings before the end of January for sure."

What does he expect a year from now from a group he's been credited with creating? "A year from now we'll have pretty substantial recommendations in terms of what the public should be faced with in the ballot box, and have a right to vote on. There are a number of things that people are talking about, and of course a lot of people come to me, because it was my concept originally, so I'm getting some fascinating discussions about different things that are necessary. Two, I think, of the big things would be redistricting and reapportionment, and then on the other side of that is extension of the term limits."

Speaker Batchelder worries that people go home after they become term limited. "One of things we do have to solve is the term limits situation we have in Ohio. And I'm not saying they should be abolished at all, I would hope that when we have people come here by the vote of their public in their district, that they would have the opportunity to serve as long as those people want them to serve, and that's not the case presently."

The reality if life in the Statehouse is that term-limited officials really don't go home, they generally run for a seat in the other chamber, where they hope to serve eight years until they become term-limited there, which means they jump back to the other chamber and start the game all over again. Legislators and the lobbyists who support them have long hoped to lengthen their terms from eight years to twelve or more. Eliminating them as the speaker says should happen is a dream come true for Ohio's always-in-session legislature.

Kasich and Obama: The twain meets

The 72-year old House speaker, the 101st in Ohio history, said because he and Gov. Kasich share the same religious background, they are aligned on many issues. So it's not a stretch that when Mr. Batchelder says Kasich is "doing just a heck of a job," as he said he was last December 19, that he has the governor's back on any issue like right-to-work that could pose problems for his reelection effort this year, which some Capital Square watchers say is rife with political potholes that could dissuade some voters who think Kasich in many ways is no different than President Obama.

The news article Medina 2014 pick for SOTS: Batchelder to defend Kasich on 'right-to-work' bills appeared first on Columbus Government Examiner.

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