Legislature and Unions and State Government and Politics and Government & Economic Development and Government and Labor

Indiana Dems: Voters should decide right-to-work

January 13, 2012

Indiana House Democrats want voters to decide the fate of a right-to-work bill or else they'll continue stall tactics designed to derail the contentious legislation, the House minority leader said Friday.

A referendum should decide whether Indiana will become the 23rd state to ban employment contracts that force workers to pay union fees, Democratic House Minority Leader Patrick Bauer said.

Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma told The Associated Press that he has polled members of the Republican Caucus and sees little chance of a referendum proposal succeeding in his chamber.

"Any proposals to change (the right-to-work legislation) are probably designed to thwart it," Bosma said Thursday.

Facing long odds in a chamber where they are outnumbered by Republicans 60-40, the Democrats' only tool for stopping the bill has been denying Republicans the 67 members needed to conduct any business through periodic boycotts. Bosma and Bauer reached an agreement Wednesday to end the boycotts in return for a guarantee the House will consider the referendum.

"We're going to do the best we can, and the best we can is to hold this up until the public understands what right-to-work is to begin with," Bauer told the Associated Press Friday.

The right-to-work battle has stalled work in Indiana's 2012 House session and drawn hundreds of union protesters to the Statehouse daily. Roughly a dozen House Democrats boycotted Gov. Mitch Daniels' final State of the State speech in a rare protest over the measure.

The divisive measure is all but assured passage in the Indiana Senate where Republicans outnumber Democrats 37-13 and Daniels made the measure. The House has been the only major obstacle to the measure.

House Democrats have typically made game-time decisions in private caucus meetings this year whether to grant Republicans the numbers needed to achieve a quorum and conduct any business. Last year they left the state for five weeks to block the right-to-work measure and other Republican proposals.

Bauer said Friday he is concerned Bosma may pull a parliamentary bait-and-switch and block a vote on changing the bill to referendum. If Bosma breaks his end of the bargain, Democrats will boycott again, Bauer said.

"We want an answer before we participate in a shame and a fraud," Bauer said. "We want the answer before we walk in."

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