Today is critical for Indiana Right-to-Work effort


INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Democrats may not be able maintain their absence from the Indiana House to prevent a vote on that state's right-to-work legislation.

The Indiana House was scheduled to resume at 1:30 p.m., but it is unclear if the 40 Democratic state representatives will show up.

Last week, House Democrats were not present, preventing the majority needed for a quorum that would allow House Bill 1001, the right-to-work proposal, to be introduced in the House on the record. Without a quorum, no legislation can be introduced.

Tori Flynn, media director for the House Republicans, said the Legislature requires 67 members to be present for a quorum. The state House has 60 Republicans and 40 Democrats. Flynn said the House had at the most 64 members answer the roll call last week.

The House Democrats, alone, cannot vote down the right-to-work proposal, which, in part, would make it a misdemeanor to require employees to join a union or pay union dues.

The House Republicans have the votes to approve the measure; it takes 51 votes to approve legislation in the House.

If the House Democrats continue their absence this week, Flynn said Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, could begin to compel attendance.

"The speaker had discretion to levy fines or send the sergeant at arms to collect lawmakers inside the Capitol," Flynn said. "But it is completely up to the speaker how to move forward."

Flynn added that Bosma has not decided whether to impose fines.

Indiana adopted an anti-bolting law last year, after the House Democrats were absent for five weeks, even leaving the state at one point.

The anti-bolting law goes into effect after any lawmaker has three consecutive unexcused absences. Because the House Democrats missed three days last week, the anti-bolting law could be used this week.

The House Democrats are expected to meet as a group before Monday's session call, but individual lawmakers have not returned calls for comment on their plans.

Last week, Democratic leader state Rep. Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, said it was "possible" for the party's 40 members to return to work this afternoon.

The Indiana Senate moved the right-to-work legislation through its Senate Labor Committee last week.

State Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury, said he expects the House Democrats to return within a couple of days.

"I see this legislation heading to (Gov. Mitch Daniels) desk in about two to three weeks," said Yoder, bill sponsor, Monday.

But Flynn said she is not going to guess at a timeline.

"That's entirely up to the Democrats," she said.

Benamin Young covers government and politics for Statehouse News Online, which is owned by the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.

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