Right-to-work bill moves forward in Indiana
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Published: 10-Jan-2012

Statehouse News Online

Indianapolis, Indiana — What could have been a showdown over right-to-work legislation at the Indiana Capitol ended up as an all too normal session day. 

But make no mistake, the fight over right to work in Indiana is not over. A key committee vote was scheduled for Tuesday morning.  

Indiana’s 40 Democratic state representatives answered the roll call at Monday’s House session, allowing the majority Republicans to introduce legislation for the new year, including House Bill 1001, more commonly referred to as the right-to-work proposal. 

To protest HB 1001, nearly every House Democrats skipped three session days last week, but instead of face fines of $1,000 per day per person, they came but do not believe their walkout was for naught.

Indiana House Minority Leader Pat Bauer, D-South Bend, said the walkout raised public awareness about what he calls a "radical" proposal. Bauer said a lot more people in Indiana now know about right to work.

"If 50 percent of the people didn't know about it (last week), we've cut that number," Bauer said.

The bill would allow members of private-sector unions to opt out of the union and avoid paying union dues and fees. Currently, Indiana workers can choose not to belong to a union, but if a union represents their workplace, non-union workers must pay union fees and dues if that is negotiated into a contract. 

Bauer said he hopes the pending debate will draw more attention to the Indiana statehouse here. “We need another week of hearings,” Bauer said from the House floor Monday.

But time may not be on the Democrats’ side. House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indiana, has scheduled the right-to-work legislation for a Tuesday morning committee vote.

“Under our rules, if the (legislation) is voted out of committee Tuesday, it would be eligible for second reading on Thursday,” Bosma said. “[Right to work] could be eligible for a final passage on Friday. But a lot of things have to happen between now and then.” 

Bosma would not specify the number of Republicans, who would vote for the right-to-work bill, but he did say he would not be moving the legislation forward if he did not have the votes.

Bauer said no one should consider right to work a "done deal." He continued, “Nothing is inevitable.” 

But the House Democrats do not have the votes to stop the legislation.

Republicans needed 67 state representatives to be present, so they could introduce the right-to-work legislation. The House GOP only needs 51 votes to pass the bill, and there are 60 House Republicans.

Still, Bosma said he's not ready to declare the Democrats irrelevant. 

“I wouldn’t say they still can’t do something. They are very creative,” Bosma said.

The Democrats' return ends the running clock for Indiana's anti-bolting law, which was approved last year after House Democrats were absent for five weeks. The law goes into effect after any lawmaker has three consecutive unexcused absences. Because the House Democrats missed three days last week, the anti-bolting law could be used this week. 

But Tori Flynn, media manager for Bosma’s office, said if the Democrats go missing again, the speaker could fine lawmakers without having to wait another three days.

Bauer didn't speculate about another walkout or round of absences, but he did say some Democrats might skip Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels' State of the State speech.

Daniels is scheduled to speak to the Indiana House and Senate on Tuesday night from the statehouse.

Note: This report first appeared at Statehouse News Online.

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