INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana's march toward becoming the nation's 23rd right-to-work state is once again in limbo.
House Democrats here refused to return to the Indiana House floor Tuesday evening, abandoning a deal that was supposed to lead to a vote on right-to-work legislation by the end of this week.
Indiana Senate Bill 269 and House Bill 1001 would make it a Class A misdemeanor to require an individual to join or remain in a union or to pay any dues, fees or other charges to that same labor organization.
After the Democrats refused to come back from a recess in today's session, Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, reportedly told the Democrats that if they're not in the House at 9 a.m. Wednesday, they will each face $1,000 daily fines until they show up.
Indiana has a part-time Legislature whose session ends in mid-March. Republicans control the Indiana Senate by a 37-13 margin and the House by a 60-40 margin. The only way the Democrats can stop the right-to-work bill from passing is to not show up for work and deny the House a required 67-member quorum.
That's what the Democrats did last year for five weeks. Subsequent polling, however, showed that the tactic was very unpopular with Indiana voters.
Two weeks ago, the Democrats boycotted House sessions for three days in an attempt to prevent the legislation from moving forward. They showed up last week and cut a deal with the Republicans that would allow the Democrats to debate the bill in session earlier today (Jan. 17) and then allow a vote to be taken on the bill by the end of the week.
Tuesday's House session was expected to include a vote on a referendum proposal and 43 other amendments to the bill. Basically, the referendum would have allowed Indiana voters to decide the issue in November.
On Tuesday afternoon the House session started with a quorum of 93 members. A few relatively innocuous pieces of legislation moved and then there was a recess called so that both sides could caucus over the planned debate on House Bill 1001.
A few hours later it became apparent that the Democrats weren't coming back.
House Democratic Leader B. Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, claimed that he’d learned of a Republican trick that was planned to derail the vote on the referendum. Meanwhile, Bosma accused the Democrats of breaking their word.