- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 3, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana’s House speaker Tuesday promised swift action to make his state the first in more than a decade to ban labor contracts that require employees to pay union fees.

Speaker Brian Bosma, Indianapolis Republican, told the Associated Press he is confident he can push the right-to-work bill through his chamber during the 2012 session, which begins Wednesday, and is spending a lot “personal capital” to do so.

“We assume nothing,” Mr. Bosma said. “I don’t assume we have all the Republicans votes, in fact I know I don’t and I don’t presume we don’t have some Democrat votes either.”

Mr. Bosma, who has been the measure’s most ardent supporter, said he hasn’t taken a formal tally of supportive votes, but added he “also wouldn’t bring it forward if I wasn’t confident of success.”

The proposal would bar private-employee unions from seeking contracts that mandate all workers pay union fees regardless of whether they are members. Supporters say the law would help attract new business to the state. Opponents call it an attempt to weaken organized labor.

Indiana’s House Democrats successfully blocked the measure last year with a five-week walkout that denied House Republicans the numbers needed to conduct daily business. Democratic leaders have thus far declined to say whether they’ll walk out again this session.

If Mr. Bosma and other right-to-work supporters are successful this time, they would hand national conservatives and business groups a major win on an issue that has recently eluded them elsewhere. It also would deal another blow to organized labor, which has seen mixed results in its fight against recent initiatives to curb union rights nationwide.

Indiana would become the 23rd state to enact a right-to-work law, but the first to do so since Oklahoma in 2001. More than a dozen other states considered such legislation last year, but none managed to adopt the measure. New Hampshire lawmakers came closest when they were able to pass a bill but couldn’t get the votes needed to overturn a veto from Democratic Gov. John Lynch.

Republicans hold wide margins in the Indiana General Assembly, 60-40 in the House and 37-13 in the Senate, and Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels strongly supports the measure.

The procedural push starts in earnest with a joint hearing of the House and Senate labor committees Friday, just two days after lawmakers return for their 2012 session. But Mr. Bosma has been pushing the measure hard since the middle of November, when he declared it would be his top legislative priority.

“We have a limited period of time to do a lot of work this session and the Super Bowl [hosted in Indianapolis] in the middle of the session complicates it just a bit,” he said. “There’s no time to sit around and wish that things were moving forward, we’re going to move them forward expeditiously.”