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Ohio Voters to Decide Fate of Collective-Bargaining Law

Ohio voters will be given the opportunity to repeal or uphold the state's controversial new law restricting teachers' collective-bargaining rights, the state's top elections official has ruled.

John Husted, Ohio's secretary of state, certified that advocates of overturning the law have collected 915,456 valid signatures, far more than than 231,147 required to put the measure on the ballot this November. Backers of the repeal intially had said they gathered 1.3 million signatures, as part of that effort.

The law, enacted in the most recent legislative session, cannot take effect until voters decide on the issue, the secretary of state's office confirmed.

The goal of the Ohio referendum is to overturn Senate Bill 5, which was pushed by GOP state legislators and signed into law by Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, in March. The law puts limitations on the types of issues, such as working conditions, that can be collectively bargained by public employees, including teachers. It requires the establishment of merit pay for teachers, and reduces the role of seniority in layoff decisions, among other provisions.

To get the item on the ballot, opponents of the law were also required collect valid signatures from at least 44 of Ohio's 88 counties. Within each of those counties, they were required to collect signatures equal to 3 percent of the total vote cast for governor in the most recent gubernatorial election, which was in 2010. Husted determined that they had met that threshold.

The state's ballot board is expected to meet in August to approve the exact language that will go before voters, Husted's office said in a statement.

The Ohio vote is just one of the legal and political challenges aimed at overturning or blocking actions taken by legislatures and governors on education issues this year. In Wisconsin, numerous lawmakers face recall elections tied to their actions in supporting or opposing Gov. Scott Walker's move to limit collective bargaining for teachers and most other public employees.

While critics say Ohio's Senate Bill 5 is unfair to teachers and other workers, the law has its defenders, who say it will save taxpayers money and spur economic growth. The public will soon judge the merits of those arguments.

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