The Indiana House's Democratic leader said Friday his boycotting members are willing to return at "high noon" Monday to begin debating a contentious right-to-work bill, although the ongoing dispute over whether a statewide referendum on the issue is constitutional could prevent legislative action.
The bill would ban contracts between companies and labor unions that force nonmembers to pay dues.
Democrats filed a proposed amendment early Friday that would send the law, if approved by the Republican-dominated Legislature, to a statewide referendum vote in November. The amendment tries to skirt the state constitution, which requires all laws be enacted by the Legislature, by having the law take effect the day before the Nov. 6 election and then allowing it to expire the next day if voters don't endorse it.
Minority Leader Patrick Bauer said Democrats would work over the weekend to address questions about the legality of their proposal.
"If you want to make it high noon Monday, we will be here," Bauer nearly shouted as Republican Speaker Brian Bosma looked on from atop the House rostrum a few feet away.
Bauer and Bosma earlier had a tense 10-minute exchange on the House floor during which Bauer pressed for an agreement that the referendum wouldn't be regarded as unconstitutional.
Bosma replied he couldn't guarantee the referendum proposal was constitutional, but assured Bauer that the House would vote on the proposal if Democrats returned to the floor to debate the right-to-work bill.
Bauer and five Democrats not taking part in the boycott were the only ones of the floor for the second attempt to start a session, continuing to leave too few members present for the House to conduct business.
Bosma said he believes the right-to-work issue should be decided in the Legislature and he didn't know or care whether the Democratic proposal for a referendum would be constitutional.
Democrats have complained that they needed time to draft a revised referendum proposal after a review by legislative lawyers came out this week that found the state constitution didn't allow for referendums to the enactment of laws.
Majority Republicans voted for a third straight day to impose $1,000-a-day fines on the boycotting Democrats, even though Marion County Judge David Dreyer issued an order Thursday blocking those fines from being deducted from the state paychecks of three boycotters who have sued.
The state Senate also started debating proposed amendments to its version of the bill on Friday, with outnumbered Senate Democrats also expected to push for a referendum vote.