City council members react to domestic partnership measure

TOLEDO, OH (Toledo News Now) – Toledo City Council voted to approve a measure extending benefits to domestic partners of city employees Tuesday.

The legislation extends health care, dental, vision and life insurance benefits to same sex and opposite sex partners of city employees.  The law requires domestic partners to register with the clerk of city council before receiving benefits.  Council rejected a proposed amendment to the legislation that would have only allowed same-sex couples to register as domestic partners.

Nine council members voted for the measure, while three opposed it.   One of the three in opposition, Tom Waniewski, says his decision came down to the bottom line.

"I appreciate what domestic partners are going through, but the bottom line is economically we can't afford benefits.  For the last five years on council I've been trying to reduce the benefits we pay to employees and their families. So this is a no brainer for me in the sense that I would be voting against the ordinance because we can't afford what could be another $400,000, $500,000 to the budget," said Waniewski.

In May, before the measure passed, the Bell administration estimated the additional cost to the city for extending benefits to domestic partners would be $205,000 per year.

Council also approved an amendment to the legislation that would force the city to reopen contract negotiations with Firefighters Local 92 because the union has its own health plan, even after city Law Director Adam Loukx advised council they did not have the authority to force the mayor to renegotiate a contract.  Mayor Bell says he may veto that provision of the legislation.

"I have a hard time understanding how, after the law director advises you that you cannot make that call, that you vote on it anyways, and then expect the administration to move forward with something that has already been deemed illegal," said Bell.

Twenty-one states and around 200 local governments, including Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland, already provide benefits to domestic partners of employees.

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