INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana House Democrats are continuing their work stoppage.
Republicans control the chamber by a 60-40 margin, but need at least seven Democrats to show up to get the quorum required for a session. Failing to come to the House floor appears to be the only way the Democrats can stop a right-to-work measure from being passed – and that's what they're doing.
Under the legislation, companies and unions would be prohibited from negotiating contracts requiring employees to join unions. Also the bill would ban requirements that nonunion employees pay union dues.
Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, told reporters Tuesday that he isn't lobbying Democrats to return to the floor and is "still counting on people to wake up." In addition, Rep. Bosma said hadn't been in contact with House Democratic Leader Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, since Monday.
On Monday evening, after their amendment to put the right-to-work issue on the November ballot was defeated, the Democrats walked out of session, preventing it from continuing.
Tuesday marked the eighth day this year their boycott has prevented session from taking place. Indiana's 2012 legislative calendar started a little over three weeks ago. The few times the Democrats have showed up, the right-to-work measure inched through the legislative steps toward final passage.
At this point, if or when the Democrats return to the House, a vote on the legislation would almost surely be taken.
With the Senate having passed its right-to-work measure on Monday, there will be two right-to-work bills in the House — they are House Bill 1001 and Senate Bill 269. Precisely how the Republicans plan to use the bills procedurally is subject to speculation. It seems likely, however, that if the House were to pass either bill, further Democratic boycotts could not prevent Indiana from becoming the 23rd right-to-work state. But neither bill can move without a quorum.
Presumably, if the Democrats continue their boycott a few more days, the issue will lay dormant until after the Feb. 5 Super Bowl, which is being held in Indianapolis. Following that, the part-time Indiana General Assembly will start meeting again through mid-March.
But the boycott is becoming expensive. After the House Democrats stopped similar legislation from passing last year, the GOP-controlled Legislature passed a law providing for $1,000 per-day fines for lawmakers who refuse to come to work, thereby denying the quorum necessary to hold session. The Republicans, however, didn't immediately start assessing the fines. With Tuesday's work stoppage, the 35 Democrats who have regularly held out owe $4,000 each.
In addition, polls show that the Democrats' boycott last year was very unpopular with Indiana voters.