INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana House Democrats on Monday ended a three-day boycott of the Legislature over a contentious labor bill but are not promising to stay long enough to allow a final vote on the divisive measure.
House Democratic Leader Patrick Bauer told The Associated Press that Democrats are returning "just for today."
Republicans want to make Indiana the first state in more than a decade to enact right-to-work legislation, which bans employment contracts that require mandatory union fees for representation. House Democrats stalled work at the opening of Indiana's 2012 legislative session last week by denying Republicans the 67 members on the floor they need to conduct any business.
The measure is expected to face an easy path through the state Senate, where Republicans outnumber Democrats 37-13.
Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel, said that if House Democrats decide to stay in session the right-to-work measure could make it to the governor's desk as soon as two weeks from now.
But if they use a start-and-stop approach to stall the measure further, Republicans will be ready with fines, he said.
"So if their idea is, come in one day be gone two days, come in a day be gone two, that's not going to fly to fly for very long at all," he said.
Republicans imposed $1000-per-day fines for absences after a five-week walkout last year over the same issue.
The measure could reach Gov. Mitch Daniels' desk well before the Feb. 5 Super Bowl in Indianapolis. Daniels has made the labor bill one of his top priorities for the 2012 session and appeared in television ads pushing the measure. Last week, the NFL Players Association called the bill "a political ploy designed to destroy basic workers' rights."
National right-to-work advocates came close in November to making New Hampshire the first right-to-work state since Oklahoma passed the measure in 2001 but could not find the votes to override a veto from Democratic Gov. John Lynch. The issue had been largely dormant since the late 1940s and '50s but has enjoyed a resurgence following the GOP's sweep in statehouses across the nation in 2010.