Indiana House Democrats prevent start of session over right-to-work bill

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January 6, 2012

By Greg Janetka

Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana: The 2012 session of the Indiana Legislature officially began on January 4, but the House has yet to meet as Democrats have stayed in caucus, preventing the 67 members necessary for a quorum. Republicans currently hold a 60-40 majority in the chamber.

The issue at the heart of the matter is "right-to-work" legislation that Republicans have long said would be their top priority in 2012. The legislation seeks to ban companies and unions from negotiating a contract that requires non-union members to pay union dues. Republicans argue the move would bring jobs to the state while Democrats say it will lead to lower wages.[1]

Similar legislation led to a major showdown between Democrats and Republicans last year. The battle came to a head on February 22, 2011, when 37 Democrats walked out of the House chambers in order to prevent a quorum necessary to act on the bill. The missing legislators returned on March 28, with both sides making compromises. One of those compromises was shelving the "right-to-work" bill for a year. This year, Democrats say they will not return until Republicans agree to hold public meetings on the legislation around the state. House Minority Leader Pat Bauer called the maneuver "a filibuster until we can get the truth."[2]

While hundreds of protestors filled the statehouse, the legislation advanced today as the Senate Pensions and Labor Committee voted 6-4 to send the legislation to the full Senate. Following 5 and a half hours of testimony, Republican Brent Waltz and three Democrats voted against the bill.[3]

Bauer admitted that Democrats will not be able to block the legislation forever, and may return as soon as Monday.[4] Republicans are seeking to have final votes on the bill next week.[3]

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