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Indiana Democrats Trigger Statehouse Showdown over Anti-Union Legislation

by Mary Beth Schneider

INDIANAPOLIS - Seats on one side of the Indiana House were nearly empty today as House Democrats departed the the state rather than vote on anti-union legislation.

Empty seats reside where the Democrats normally sit as Republicans filled their seats inside the House chambers at the Indiana Statehouse on Tuesday. (MATT DETRICH / The Star) A source tells the Indianapolis Star that Democrats are headed to Illinois, though it was possible some also might go to Kentucky. They need to go to a state with a Democratic governor to avoid being taken into police custody and returned to Indiana.

The House came into session twice this morning, with only three of the 40 Democrats present. Those were needed to make a motion, and a seconding motion, for any procedural steps Democrats would want to take to ensure Republicans don’t do anything official without quorum.

With only 58 legislators present, there was no quorum present to do business. The House needs 67 of its members to be present.

House Speaker Brian Bosma said he did not know yet whether he would ask the Indiana State Police to compel the lawmakers to attend, if they can be found.

Today’s fight was triggered by Republicans pushing a bill that would bar unions and companies from negotiating a contract that requires non-union members to kick-in fees for representation. It’s become the latest in what is becoming a national fight over Republican attempts to eliminate or limit collective bargaining.

Gov. Mitch Daniels had warned his party late last year against pursuing so-called “right to work” legislation. While he agreed with it philosophically, he said it was a big issue that needed a state-wide debate and noted no Republican had run on this in the November election.

But now that his party is pursuing it, Daniels has not spoken against it. He has so far issued no statement, has held no news conference and has not been interviewed by any Indiana reporters in the Statehouse. Daniels did do a radio interview Monday with National Public Radio in which he discussed the labor fight which has caused a government stalemate in Wisconsin — where Senate Democrats have fled to Illinois to prevent a vote on a bill that limits collective bargaining --a now, apparently, his state.

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