(AP) — A panel of Indiana lawmakers used a window of opportunity Tuesday
after Democrats ended a three-day boycott to advance divisive
right-to-work legislation that Gov. Mitch Daniels is expected to push for
in his last "State of the State" speech.
The ban on
contracts that require workers to pay union fees for representation moves
on to the full House of Representatives by an 8-5 party-line vote. House
Democrats had managed to block the vote last year through a five-week
walkout during which they left the state.
Chairman Douglas Gutwein and Democratic Rep. David Niezgodski periodically
shouted each other down Tuesday as Democrats attempted to introduce a
handful changes to the bill. Other Republicans on the House Employment,
Labor and Pensions Committee remained largely quiet through the testy
become the first state in more than a decade to approve right-to-work
legislation. National advocates have tried without success to push the
measure in New Hampshire and other states following a wave of Statehouse
victories by Republicans in 2010. Supporters say the measure would bring
more jobs to Indiana, where unemployment has crept up to around 9 percent.
Opponents say it is aimed at breaking unions and claim it would depress
wages for all workers.
included the proposal in his 2012 legislative agenda and has filmed
television ads in support of the measure. The governor, who is
term-limited from running for re-election in November, is scheduled to
deliver his annual assessment of the state to lawmakers Tuesday evening.
right-to-work bill is the first to be voted on by a House panel this
session and could advance to the Senate as early as Friday if Democrats
stick around long enough. The boycott by House Democrats last week stalled
work on the measure. And Democratic House Minority Leader Patrick Bauer
said when his caucus returned to the House chamber Monday that they may
boycott again to block the bill.
protesters who packed the House chamber for the vote booed at Republicans
and cheered for Democrats.
Gutwein said a
batch of Democratic amendments to the bill were drafted too late to be
considered during the voting session.
"What are you
afraid of?" asked Rep. Craig Fry, D-Mishawaka. "You have plenty of votes
to pass this bill."
countered Democrats, saying that opponents had plenty of time to speak out
last week during a five-hour hearing on the measure.
out of order and that's it," he said of the amendments.
The measure is
expected to find an easy path through the state Senate, where Republicans
outnumber Democrats 37-13.