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Indiana Right-to-Work Bill Passes in 6-Minute House Committee Hearing

Indiana House Committee rams through right-to-work bill (photo: jimmywayne)

Update: Indiana Dems have walked out again, denying the Republicans a quorum.

Republicans in Indiana wasted no time. After House Democrats returned to work yesterday, the GOP immediately scheduled a Labor Committee vote on the divisive right-to-work bill. Mary Beth Schneider reported on the swift passage in committee:

House Republicans today voted 8-5 on party lines to send the so-called “right to work” bill to the full House, refusing to allow any debates or any amendments.

House Democrats, who unanimously voted against the bill, said they were outraged by the hearing that lasted about six minutes. One, Rep. John Bartlett, D-Indianapolis, said that he’d “never seen a charade like this in my life.” Another, Rep. David Niezgodski, D-South Bend, said Democrats “object 100 percent.”

Protesters shouted “shame” as they left, with one saying the Republicans should be “tarred and feathered.”

A six-minute committee meeting. Ah, deliberative democracy. Here was the devious reason Republicans gave for refusing to allow amendments: Democrats failed to submit them 24 hours in advance of the hearing. The hearing was scheduled only 18 hours after the bill was announced on the floor. Joseph Heller’s got nothing on them.

I actually enjoyed one of the amendments Democrats did try to propose. It would have required the Indiana Chamber of Commerce to represent businesses that are not dues-paying members. Same principle, right?

The big news here is that all eight House Republicans on the committee voted for the bill. When it came up in the Senate, one Republican joined all the Democrats in voting no. But Indiana Republicans have a massive advantage – 37-13 – in the Senate, so a couple wayward votes won’t matter. In the state House, Republicans control the chamber 60-40, which means that Democrats would need 10 Republicans to cross the aisle to block the bill on the floor. So far, three have come out against the bill, though citizen lobbying continues throughout the week. Four others are undecided, according to the CNHI, an Indiana news outlet. But there was solidarity on the Labor Committee this morning.

One of those Republicans voting yes wants to amend the bill on the floor to exempt the building trades:

A conservative Republican lawmaker will push to exempt 15 building trade unions from a controversial labor bill that would put an end to mandatory union dues.

Republican state Sen. Brent Waltz of Greenwood said he has the support of both the building trade unions and the contractors who employ their members to carve them out of the right-to-work legislation making its way through the Indiana legislature. The legislation would prohibit employers from entering into labor contracts that require all workers to pay union dues. The bill has faced strong opposition from Democrats and labor leaders […]

State Sen. Carlin Yoder of Middlebury is carrying the Senate bill said he opposes any exemptions.

“The bill is intended to be about fairness,” Yoder said. “It can’t cover some workers and not others and still be fair.”

Yoder’s comments suggest that exemptions will fail. This is a classic divide-and-conquer approach, however, and if the building trades are supportive it significantly weakens the coalition opposing the bill.

Rep. Jerry Torr, the author of the bill, said he fully expects Democrats to walk out again by the end of the week, but I don’t think a decision has been made. If they don’t walk out, however, it does look like right to work will pass.

CommunityThe Bullpen

Indiana Right-to-Work Bill Passes in 6-Minute House Committee Hearing

UPDATE: And here’s the latest. Democrats have walked out again in protest, denying Republicans a quorum.

Republicans in Indiana wasted no time. After House Democrats returned to work yesterday, the GOP immediately scheduled a Labor Committee vote on the divisive right-to-work bill. Mary Beth Schneider reported on the swift passage in committee:

House Republicans today voted 8-5 on party lines to send the so-called “right to work” bill to the full House, refusing to allow any debates or any amendments.

House Democrats, who unanimously voted against the bill, said they were outraged by the hearing that lasted about six minutes. One, Rep. John Bartlett, D-Indianapolis, said that he’d “never seen a charade like this in my life.” Another, Rep. David Niezgodski, D-South Bend, said Democrats “object 100 percent.”

Protesters shouted “shame” as they left, with one saying the Republicans should be “tarred and feathered.”

A six-minute committee meeting. Ah, deliberative democracy. Here was the devious reason Republicans gave for refusing to allow amendments: Democrats failed to submit them 24 hours in advance of the hearing. The hearing was scheduled only 18 hours after the bill was announced on the floor. Joseph Heller’s got nothing on them.

I actually enjoyed one of the amendments Democrats did try to propose. It would have required the Indiana Chamber of Commerce to represent businesses that are not dues-paying members. Same principle, right?

The big news here is that all eight House Republicans on the committee voted for the bill. When it came up in the Senate, one Republican joined all the Democrats in voting no. But Indiana Republicans have a massive advantage – 37-13 – in the Senate, so a couple wayward votes won’t matter. In the state House, Republicans control the chamber 60-40, which means that Democrats would need 10 Republicans to cross the aisle to block the bill on the floor. So far, three have come out against the bill, though citizen lobbying continues throughout the week. Four others are undecided, according to the CNHI, an Indiana news outlet. But there was solidarity on the Labor Committee this morning.

One of those Republicans voting yes wants to amend the bill on the floor to exempt the building trades:

A conservative Republican lawmaker will push to exempt 15 building trade unions from a controversial labor bill that would put an end to mandatory union dues.

Republican state Sen. Brent Waltz of Greenwood said he has the support of both the building trade unions and the contractors who employ their members to carve them out of the right-to-work legislation making its way through the Indiana legislature. The legislation would prohibit employers from entering into labor contracts that require all workers to pay union dues. The bill has faced strong opposition from Democrats and labor leaders […]

State Sen. Carlin Yoder of Middlebury is carrying the Senate bill said he opposes any exemptions.

“The bill is intended to be about fairness,” Yoder said. “It can’t cover some workers and not others and still be fair.”

Yoder’s comments suggest that exemptions will fail. This is a classic divide-and-conquer approach, however, and if the building trades are supportive it significantly weakens the coalition opposing the bill.

Rep. Jerry Torr, the author of the bill, said he fully expects Democrats to walk out again by the end of the week, but I don’t think a decision has been made. If they don’t walk out, however, it does look like right to work will pass.

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David Dayen

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