Indiana Dems end boycott, but threaten new one

Legislative committee could vote on right-to-work bill as early as Tuesday.

January 9, 2012

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Indiana House Democrats ended their three-day boycott on Monday but they could be right back at it Tuesday. That’s because House Republicans are moving fast to get so-called right-to-work legislation approved as early as this week.

The House Employment, Labor and Pensions Committee plans to meet Tuesday morning to vote on right-to-work legislation. Their Senate counterpart passed a similar measure late last week.

And, if the measure passes in the House committee, House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis), who threatened to start fining absent Democrats to a tune of $1,000 per day, says the right-to-work bill could get a final vote by week’s end in the full House — if Democrats stick around.

Democratic leaders have dangled the prospect of another walkout if Republicans don’t slow down the legislative process.

Democratic leader Patrick Bauer (D-South Bend), made the case to do just that. At the start of Monday’s House Session, he urged statewide hearings on the bill, citing recent polls that suggests half of Hoosiers don’t know enough about the hot-button issue.

“Fifty percent of the people don’t know what a right-to-work bill is,” Bauer said. “You talk to the average Hoosier and they don’t know what right work is. It sounds nice, right-to-work.”

Bauer said Indiana voters should have final say, just as they do for expensive bond issues for construction projects.

“I don’t really like referendums but if you’re going to have a referendum on a $30 million building, you ought be able to have a referendum on a bill that could cost hundreds of millions of dollars on families,” Bauer said Monday on the floor of the Indiana House.

The right-to-work bill would prohibit Indiana employers from forcing workers to pay dues to a union as a condition of employment.

Twenty-two states, mostly in the South and West, are effectively right-to-work. Economists and political observers say Indiana’s position on the issue is notable because the state lies in the traditionally union-friendly industrial Midwest. If Indiana moves forward with the proposal, the state would be the first in more than a decade to ban contracts that require workers to pay union fees for representation.

GOP proponents say passing right-to-work legislation will immediately attract jobs to Indiana.

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