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By Jo Ingles and Mary Wisniewski
COLUMBUS, Ohio, March 30 (Reuters) - Ohio's legislature on Wednesday passed a Republican measure to curb the collective bargaining rights of about 350,000 state employees, and Governor John Kasich said he will sign it into law.
Its passage marks another success for Republicans who are pursuing measures in several U.S. states to limit the rights of public-sector unions. Unions are a key constituency of the Democratic Party.
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The bill, which also bans strikes by unions for public employees, was approved in the Ohio Senate late on Wednesday following its passage in the state House of Representatives earlier in the day.
Kasich, a Republican, did not indicate when he would sign the bill but he is expected to do so by Friday. When the bill is enacted, Ohio would become the most populous U.S. state this year to impose sweeping collective bargaining curbs on public sector unions.
Kasich said the bill will put taxpayers and public employees on a more equal footing regarding pay and benefits.
Similar measures have spurred protests in Wisconsin, Tennessee, Michigan and other states.
Ohio Democrats hope to put the new law on the ballot for a referendum vote in November in an effort to overturn it.
"The wheels are in motion" for a referendum battle, said State Senator Joe Schiavoni, a Democrat. "They're trying to take away these union members' rights."
"I'm hopeful and I feel confident that at the end of the day the referendum will overturn the law," he said.
During the debate, some Republicans said changes from an earlier version of the bill, including a modification that allowed police and firefighters to bargain collectively for safety equipment, improved it.
"The bill we have on the floor today has some blemishes but addresses major problems in the collective bargaining process," said State Representative Michael Henne, a Republican.Healthy products cheap power balance sale