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Indiana Republican legislators going right to work on ‘right to work’; What about energy? November 22, 2011

Posted by Laura Arnold in 2012 Indiana General Assembly.
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Dear Blog Readers:

The Indiana General Assembly will meet for Organizational Day on Tuesday, November 22 with the House convening at 1:00 p.m. and the Senate at 1:30 p.m. The first session day is scheduled for Wednesday, January 4, 2012. Although today’s Organizational Day is mostly ceremonial, it is expected to set the tone for the upcoming short session. State legislative leaders are expected to give floor speeches and to outline their respective agendas for the upcoming session.

The second regular session or “short session” of each term of the general assembly shall adjourn sine die not later than March 14 in any even-numbered year.  By comparison, the first regular session of each term of the general assembly shall adjourn sine die not later than April 29 in any odd-numbered year. Sometimes non-Hoosiers are a little confused about this. When state lawmakers adjourn by March 14, 2012, they are done for the entire year. Yes, that’s right. Therefore, the short session proceeds at  a pretty fast pace.

The article below from the front page of the Indianapolis Star gives a good preview of what we might expect. During the 2011 session, a five week walk by Indiana House Democrats shut down the Indiana General Assembly until Indiana Republican leaders agreed to take certain issues including “right to work” off the table. No one knows for sure what will happen this session.

Click HERE to watch on-line.

With a show down on “right to work”, I don’t hold much hope anything will get done on other issues such as energy. Let’s see. I think both parties are anxious to prepare for the 2012 General Election where voters will not only vote for a Presidential candidate but a new Governor. Next year Governor Mitch Daniels will be completing his final year in office.

Don’t blink or you might miss the whole thing!

Laura Ann Arnold

Original story: http://www.indystar.com/article/20111122/NEWS05/111220323/Indiana-Republicans-aim-get-right-work-right-work-?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|IndyStar.com

Written by Mary Beth Schneider,
 12:16 AM, Nov. 22, 2011

The final legislative session of Gov. Mitch Daniels’ tenure will be a battleground over labor union rights.

The fight to make Indiana the 23rd so-called “right to work” state in the nation began Monday, when House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, and Senate President Pro Tempore David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said the issue will be their top priority.

Unions call the legislation — which bars companies and unions from negotiating a contract that requires nonmembers to pay fees for representation — the “right to work for less.” Their protests over this and other bills aimed at labor unions shut down the House for five weeks in 2011, when Democrats left the state to deny Republicans the ability to cast votes.

Republicans tabled the issue then, in large part because Daniels said 2011 wasn’t the right time to deal with it.

But he’s made it clear that he won’t raise the same objections in 2012. Although he hasn’t endorsed the legislation — and his office declined to comment on it Monday — he has argued that not having this law costs jobs.

“We miss about a third of the opportunities because businesses want a state where this protection is provided to workers,” Daniels said last week in South Bend. “In this tough economy, the state needs every edge it can get.”

Monday, House Minority Leader B. Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, did not rule out a reprise of this year’s walkout by Democrats, saying his 40-member caucus would “confer together to decide that.”

Bosma and Long acknowledged that the issue will be divisive.

In fact, Bosma said, the House might try to move the bill quickly so it has cleared as many legislative hurdles as possible before the Feb. 5 Super Bowl. The concern? Fears that labor unions would hold protests that would interfere somehow with the big game at Lucas Oil Stadium, just a few blocks from the Statehouse.

The protests will begin from day one. Hundreds of union members are expected at the Statehouse today for lawmakers’ one-day organizational meeting. Instead of the typical ceremonial gathering, today’s meeting will give a taste of what to expect when the 2012 session starts Jan. 4.

Union organizers, who are bringing in busloads of members, said they’ll try to have as many members as possible meet with their local lawmakers to argue against the legislation.

At the same time, business groups — including the Indiana Chamber of Commerce — will be lobbying for it.

They’ll be getting a big hand from the National Right To Work Legal Defense Foundation, which said Monday that passing this legislation in Indiana is its top 2012 priority as well.

Greg Mourad, vice president of the National Right To Work Committee, said several other states also will be debating this legislation in 2012, including Michigan, Missouri, Maine, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Pennsylvania.

But Indiana, he said, is “probably our highest priority” for one reason: “They’ve got the votes there to do it.”

Monday, Bosma — who said he’d co-author the bill in the House while an identical bill moves in the Senate — framed this as about two issues: jobs and freedom.

“With one in three employers that are looking for a place to locate in the nation taking Indiana off the table because we are not a right-to-work state, it is the time to remove that final barrier,” he said.

Nancy Guyott, president of the Indiana State AFL-CIO, called Bosma’s comments “laughable.”

“In reality, this legislation isn’t about giving Hoosier workers and employers more freedom,” she said. “It’s about taking away existing freedoms and choices.”

She argued that Hoosiers should be free to negotiate a contract that has to get the support of employers and more than half of the union. And, she said, unions should not be forced to represent employees who pay nothing for those services, “thus severely depleting their ability to effectively represent dues-paying members in fights for better wages, working conditions and needed safety precautions.”

Bauer said the GOP agenda would stand in stark contrast to the House Democratic agenda unveiled Monday, which includes offering tax incentives to boost small-business job creation; using unemployment benefits to subsidize the salary of a worker who otherwise would be laid off; giving Hoosiers preference in hiring for jobs funded by state contracts; offering vouchers to pay for preschool; capping class sizes for kindergarten through sixth grade; and other issues not likely to get much traction with the Republican-controlled legislature.

“They’re talking about continuing crushing people’s job opportunities and salaries and hopes,” he said. “We’re here to tell how we can get more jobs and higher-paying jobs and helping families.”

Both sides can point to studies and statistics to back up their case that right-to-work states either create more jobs — or simply create more low-paying jobs.

“The truth is, as it often is, probably somewhere in between,” said Paul Carlen, chairman of the Department of Economics at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

Most studies, he said, “have found some positive effect, but it’s small. . . . It does have some signaling value. It signals to outside employers that maybe this is a place where they’re not going to have to worry as much about unions.”

Bosma and Long argued that Indiana needs to look at anything that creates a better business climate, even if it causes division in the legislature.

“We’ll have to fasten our seat belts,” Long said. “It’s going to be a bumpy ride.”

The ride won’t be over even when the legislature adjourns in mid-March. Instead, it’s sure to be an issue in the November 2012 elections.

“In the end, we’re here to debate the issues and vote on the issues,” Long said as he warned Democrats not to fight this issue by shutting down the session. “Then you take your case to the public in the ballot booth and you see who wins.”

Call Star reporter Mary Beth Schneider at (317) 444-2772.

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