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Indiana Democrats Gamely Holding Out on Right to Work

Indiana Democrats in the State House walked out again to deny a quorum, as Republicans attempted to pass their right-to-work bill and clear the last hurdle before moving the bill to Mitch Daniels for his signature.

The House tried and failed to come in at both 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., as not enough representatives were on the floor for a quorum.

They need 67 representatives on the floor to go in to session – or two-thirds of the 100 members. Five Democrats are not participating in the walk-out, but 35 have repeatedly stayed off the floor in order to slow or halt the “right to work” bill.

Republicans say Democrats need to do their duty and come to the floor; Democrats say they are doing their duty, serving their constituents the only way a minority can by denying a quorum.

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said the House would try to come again on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m.

That certainly sounds like the Democrats are in for the long haul. Remember, this is the same group that held out for five weeks last year. The one difference is that Indiana Republicans can vote to fine the Democrats $1,000 a day right away, and the fines would have a definite impact on members who make only $22,600 a year from their legislative duties. So far, $4,000 in fines have been scheduled. The fines imposed last year and this year are caught up in court right now, so perhaps a favorable ruling will alleviate that pressure.

Democrats may be dragging this out before the national spotlight shines on Indianapolis when the Super Bowl comes to town next week.

Just to clear up a detail from before, the House bill does differ from the Senate bill that has already passed. In particular, the House bill includes an exemption for building trades and construction unions. They would not be subject to having their contracts allow nonunion members to work in the trade without paying dues. Some Republican Senators grumbled about that provision before, but I don’t think it’ll be a huge problem, and the Senate would probably rubber-stamp the House bill if they get a chance.

For now, all eyes are on the House Democrats, as they wage a difficult fight to hold out and stop the bill. It’s very reminiscent of Wisconsin, as you recall. But in Wisconsin, remember, eventually the anti-union measures passed.

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David Dayen

David Dayen