Indiana Republicans prepare to take on unions with "right-to-work" legislation in 2012

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November 29, 2011

By Greg Janetka

Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana: Continuing a battle that saw a five-week walkout by Democrats earlier this year, Republican legislative leaders announced last week that "right-to-work" legislation would be on the top of their agenda in 2012. The legislation would limit union influence by prohibiting private companies from requiring employees to pay union dues, something Republicans say hurts job growth. There are currently 22 "right-to-work" states.[1]

Democrats criticize the measure as anti-union and say they will fight it with any means necessary, which could include a repeat of the walkout that took place earlier this 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.

The battle over unions was not confined to Indiana, but spread though the Midwest. In Wisconsin, a controversial budget bill pushed by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R) that restricted the bargaining rights of public unions led to a walkout by senate Democrats and eventually recall elections against 9 senators. Two of which, both Republicans, were successfully removed from office. Earlier this month recall campaigns were launched against Walker, as well as Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and four Republican state senators. Meanwhile, in Ohio voters overwhelmingly passed a veto referendum to repeal legislation that limited collective bargaining for public employees in the state.

According to Andrew Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center on Indiana Politics at Indiana University-Purdue University, the only major change that may occur in Indiana this year is active campaigning by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels (R) in favor of the proposed legislation. This year Daniels remained largely quiet on the debate, which some feel was a cautionary step as he decided whether or not to run for president. Without a presidential bid, and term-limited in 2012, Daniels has little to lose by entering the fray. In fact, he recently recorded robocalls supporting the Ohio law prior to its repeal.[2]

While both sides claimed victory in the 2011 standoff, 2012 could open up a whole new Pandora's box. Proof of victory may come in the 2012 elections, when all 100 state representatives and half of the 50 state senators will be up for re-election. The new session starts January 4, 2012.

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