LISBON - State Rep. Nick Barborak was among those legislators who voted against a budget bill that included a provision that says college athletes in Ohio are not considered employees under state law.
The amendment inserted into a budget bill passed by the Ohio House last week was in response to the recent ruling by a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board that Northwestern University football players could form a union to negotiate for benefits, working conditions, etc.
Barborak said he voted against the bill primarily for other reasons but he would have preferred the college unionization issue be subject to some debate before being inserted into a budget bill for a vote.
"I think in general college athletes should have a say on issues about their own protection," especially in light of the growing evidence that football can cause brain damage, Barborak said.
Barborak said he would have been willing to hear the pros and cons of the unionization issue but was never given a chance, as the Republican-controlled legislature inserted the amendment and then passed the bill without comment.
"That's become a recurring theme with this legislature, passing public policy without listening to hear what the public wants," he said. "If we're going to pass laws like this in Ohio we should at least hear what the people think. I just think it's a terrible way to make public policy."
According to the Associated Press, the amendment may have little or no legal impact on the unionization of scholarship athletes attending state colleges if it becomes an issue in Ohio.
Barborak said the Republicans took the same approach when adding an amendment to the same budget bill that abolishes a state ruling restricting independent political spending by corporations, labor unions and non-profit organizations.
Under the rule instituted in 2011 by then-Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, these organizations would have to disclose the money they spent in support of Ohio candidates and identify themselves in political ads. It also banned political spending by foreign-owned corporations and companies receiving government contracts.
There was no accompany state law to legally enforce Brunner's rule, nor has any group been punished so far for violating the rule.
Barborak said elimination of the restrictions "opens the door" for foreign companies to play a major role in Ohio politics by dumping significant amounts of money into election campaigns.
"It's frightening," he said. "It's not as if we don't already have enough money in politics."
State law will continue to ban direct election contributions by corporations, unions and non-profits.
The budget bill with both of these measures now goes to the Ohio Senate for consideration.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer also contributed to this story.