News From Terre Haute, Indiana

January 10, 2012

Indiana House panel advances right-to-work bill

TOM LoBIANCO
Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS — A panel of Indiana lawmakers used a window of opportunity today after Democrats ended a three-day boycott to send divisive right-to-work legislation to the full House of Representatives.

The committee voted 8-5 along party lines to advance a ban on contracts that require workers to pay union fees for representation. Republican Chairman Douglas Gutwein and Democratic Rep. David Niezgodski periodically shouted each other down 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 voting session.

Indiana could 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.

The right-to-work measure is the first bill 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.

Union protesters who packed the House chamber for the vote booed at Republicans and cheered for Democrats.

Gutwein said today that 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.”

Gutwein countered Democrats, saying that opponents had plenty of time to speak out last week during a five-hour hearing on the measure.

“They’re ruled out of order and that’s it,” he said of the amendments.