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SB 83 passes Senate, but the fight isn’t over

Senate Bill 83 Passes Senate

On May 17, the Ohio Senate passed Sub. SB 83 by a vote of 21-10. Three Republicans (Sens. Blessing, Manning, and Reynolds) joined all seven Democrats in opposing the bill. Two Republican members were absent from the vote. The bill still would have to be approved by the House of Representatives and then signed by the governor before becoming law.

Before Sub. SB 83 passed committee, an amendment was accepted that changed several provisions of the bill. Of particular importance to faculty, the amendment removed mention of a specific credit hour requirement for full-time faculty workload. The bill now requires each state institution to include in its faculty workload policy a teaching workload expectation based on credit hours, a definition of all faculty workload elements in terms of credit hours including a full-time minimum standard established by the board of trustees, justifiable credit hour equivalents, and any administrative action that the state institution may take if a faculty member fails to comply with the policy’s requirements.

The amendment also changed the section on annual performance reviews of faculty, but merely to clarify that the reviews are intended for full-time faculty only, not part-time faculty. You can view the full, “as passed by the Senate” version of Sub. SB 83 here.

While we are disappointed in the outcome of the Senate vote, we are not surprised. Unfortunately, despite outreach attempts to Sen. Cirino and other Republicans, they were not willing to seriously talk with faculty about this bill and referred to the bill as “an urgent course correction for higher education.” It seems to us that the only urgent course correction that is needed is redistricting reform that prevents the kind of gerrymandering that enables a hyper-partisan legislature that passes deeply unpopular and widely opposed bills.

The day before the Senate vote, The Ohio State University Board of Trustees released a statement opposing SB 83. The Inter-University Council (IUC) of Ohio also sent a letter to Sen. Cirino outlining their outstanding concerns with the bill. Unfortunately, this last-minute opposition and concern by university administrations came too late to have a sufficient impact.

House Bill 151 Opponent Hearing

Also on May 17, Sub. HB 151–the companion bill to Sub. SB 83–received an opponent hearing in the House Higher Education Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Tom Young (R-Washington Twp.). There were 58 witnesses who showed up to testify in person, with 171 written opponent testimonies submitted. Unfortunately, due to the time restraints imposed by the chairman for the hearing, the vast majority of witnesses who showed up did not have the opportunity to testify. Moreover, Rep. Josh Williams (R-Oregon), a primary sponsor of the bill and member of the committee, failed to show up for any portion of yesterday’s hearing. It is clear that they know this bill is broadly opposed, but they don’t want to listen.

Nevertheless, yesterday’s hearing brought out quality testimony from faculty, students, and allied organizations. Prof. Steve Mockabee gave testimony on behalf of OCAAUP and received a number of questions from committee members about the importance of collective bargaining and tenure and about the ways in which this bill is already hurting faculty recruitment in Ohio.

Another notable witness was Prof. John Plecnik from Cleveland State University’s law school. Prof. Plecnik is a Republican Lake County Commissioner, who testified to the fact that this bill actually would do more to silence conservative voices on campus than it would to promote conservative viewpoints. You can watch the full hearing here on the Ohio Channel.

Next Wednesday, May 24, at 10:30 am, the House Higher Education Committee will hold a third hearing on Sub. HB 151 for interested party testimony. Interested parties are people or groups who have not taken a position on the bill but have a stake in the legislation. Pending formal referral, the committee also will hold a first hearing for sponsor testimony only on Sub. SB 83. It is unclear at this time which bill they ultimately will use as the vehicle moving forward. It may be Sub. SB 83, since it contains the additional amendments referenced above.

TAKE ACTION: Contact House Members & The Governor

We now turn our attention and activism toward the House of Representatives and Gov. DeWine.

You can easily email all of them using Honesty for Ohio Education’s Action Network Page. There is a form letter provided, which you can edit as you’d like. Please take action and share that widely!

You can also start calling Speaker Stephens and the Republican members of the House Higher Education Committee to ask them to stop the bill. Here is a sample script: Hello, I am calling to ask Representative [Representative’s last name] to oppose House Bill 151 and Senate Bill 83. They are terrible bills that will undermine quality higher education for Ohio’s students. They represent the largest attack on union rights since Senate Bill 5 in 2011. They must be stopped.”

Speaker Jason Stephens: (614) 466-1366

Chair Tom Young: (614) 466-6504

Rep. Adam Bird: (614) 644-6034

Rep. Bill Dean: (614) 466-1470

Rep. Gayle Manning: (614) 644-5076

Rep. Derek Merrin: (614) 466-1731

Rep. Gail Pavliga: (614) 466-2004

Rep. Justin Pizzulli: (614) 466-2124

Rep. Nick Santucci: (614) 466-5441

Rep. Josh Williams: (614) 466-1418

Rep. Bernard Willis: (614) 466-2038

The script for Gov. DeWine should be something along the lines of: “Hello, I want to make sure that Gov. DeWine is aware of House Bill 151 and Senate Bill 83, companion bills that threaten quality higher education in Ohio. Should either of these bills reach his desk, I sincerely hope that the governor will exercise his veto power.”

Gov. Mike DeWine: (614) 644-4357

We will continue to provide updates and action items as the process unfolds. We know that this is a frustrating process, but we must keep up the fight. Please share this information and ensure your colleagues are still paying attention now that we are in summer mode. Lawmakers will take our silence as acceptance; so it’s important that we keep making noise, not only for the sake of our profession, but for the sake of our students and quality higher education!

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