INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Gov. Mitch Daniels defended divisive right-to-work
legislation that he only recently put his name behind, while asking House
Democrats to end their boycott of the measure.
Daniels spent a large part of his final “State of the State” speech Tuesday
night touting the national reputation Indiana has developed over his seven
years in office, as well as a modest 2012 legislative agenda ranging from
more money victims of the Indiana State Fair stage collapse to a statewide
But he dedicated roughly four minutes of his half-hour speech to explaining
his evolution in support of right-to-work this year. Daniels made no mention
of the issue in his annual speech last year, and urged lawmakers to hold off
lest it derail other legislation like an overhaul of the state’s education
Indiana could become the first state in more than a decade to approve a ban
on private contracts that require workers to pay union fees for
representation. Indiana House and Senate Republican leaders have made it
their top legislative priority this year, and Daniels has campaigned
vigorously for it since announcing last month that he would support it the
Republican lawmakers and guests who filled the House chamber applauded
heartily throughout the speech, but House and Senate Democrats largely held
More than a dozen House Democrats skipped Daniels’ speech in a rare move.
Democratic House Minority Leader Patrick Bauer said afterward he left it to
each lawmaker in his 40-member caucus to decide whether they would attend
Hundreds of union protesters packed the halls outside the House chamber,
booing as Daniels walked in for his speech and chanting “Shame on you!” as
he left. The protesters’ boos and chants could be heard through the glass
panes of the House chamber as he spoke about right-to-work.
Although lawmakers are only five days into the 10-week legislative session,
the right-to-work battle in the House has stalled most work. House Democrats
ended a three-day boycott over the measure Monday only to stall business
again Tuesday following a party-line vote in favor of the labor bill earlier
in the day.
In his final annual address to the Legislature, Daniels argued that other
states win out in competition for new business because of their
“Too often we never get a chance, because a right-to-work law is a
requirement. Especially in this poor national economy, a state needs every
edge it can get,” he said.
But he also took care not to downplay Indiana in a speech that was otherwise
laden with plaudits about his work over the last seven years in office.
Daniels is term-limited against running for re-election in November.
Toward the end of his right-to-work pitch, Daniels relayed an allegory about
two politicians written in 1861. One Democrat and one Republican go to
Kentucky to settle a political dispute in a knife fight. At the close of the
story, Daniels takes two subtle shots at House Democrats — telling them they
should stay in the state as well as in the House chamber.
Indiana House Democrats left the state for five weeks last year to block the
right-to-work measure. This year, though they have stalled the still-young
2012 session, they have remained in Indianapolis.
“And we think we have disagreements!” Daniels says. “When we do, I hope
we’ll keep them not only in state, but also in this chamber, where the
people’s business is supposed to be settled.”
When there are the numbers needed to conduct business, Republican House
Speaker Brian Bosma has acted quickly to advance the right-to-work measure.
Tuesday’s speedy approval of the measure in committee, though, appeared to
backfire with another Democratic boycott.
The Legislature’s Democratic leaders said Daniels should have used the
speech to bring the two parties closer together rather than drive a wedge
further between them over the right-to-work bill.
“I was mostly disappointed he missed an opportunity he could have used to
bring Democrats and Republicans together, he could have used tonight to
bring House and Senate together, to talk about how we are really going to
serve the needs of Indiana,” Democratic Senate Minority Leader Vi Simpson
said after the speech.