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Marion County judge blocks right-to-work fines

February 6, 2012

A Marion County judge ordered Indiana House Republicans to return fines levied against House Democrats in the right-to-work battle last year and blocked $1,000-a-day fines levied this year.

Marion County Superior Court Judge David Dreyer ordered Monday that the fines against the Democrats who walked off their jobs be returned. Dreyer also issued a preliminary injunction that temporarily halts collection of $1,000-a-day fines levied in this year's boycotts.

Attorney General Greg Zoeller said Monday that the state will ask the Indiana Supreme Court to review the decision. The state's highest court agreed last month to review the underlying issue of whether the legislature can fine lawmakers and force the state's auditor to withhold those fines from paychecks.

"We disagree with the trial court's prolonging this internal dispute and the precedent it would establish, and we will respectfully ask a higher court to redirect the dispute promptly and conclusively to the place it belongs: the Legislature," Zoeller said in a statement.

Mark GiaQuinta, a lawyer for the House Democrats, said Dreyer's orders reinforce the Democrats' argument: House Republicans cannot arbitrarily order the state to withhold money from lawmakers. The 31 House Democrats who signed onto the lawsuit filed by Rep. Bill Crawford, D-Indianapolis, should all see their money returned, GiaQuinta said.

House Democrats boycotted the House for eight days this session and five weeks last session in an effort to block right-to-work legislation. The move had denied Republicans the number of members needed to conduct any business and also spurred Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma to levy fines against Democrats who walked out.

Last week, Gov. Mitch Daniels made Indiana the 23rd state to ban employment contracts that force workers to pay union fees or join unions when he signed the right-to-work legislation.

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