House GOP defeats RTW referendum proposal; Democrats walk out

Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis, questions Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel, on the right to work bill Torr authored. Photo by Abigail Godwin, The Statehouse File.

By Samm Quinn
The Statehouse File

INDIANAPOLIS –Republicans in the Indiana House beat back seven amendments offered by Democrats on Monday – including one that would have sent the question to the ballot for a referendum – as they prepared a right-to-work bill for a vote by the full chamber.

The Senate passed a right-to-work bill Monday. Read the story.

But as House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, slammed down the gavel to end Monday’s work on the bill, angry Democrats stormed off the floor, claiming they had not been allowed to offer all their amendments. The move halted work on other bills Monday night.

“I guess we’ll call it quits for the evening,” Bosma said. He said if Democrats did not return to the House on Tuesday, Republicans would again impose $1,000-per-day fines for those who absent.

In all, Democrats and Republicans had prepared and filed 60 amendments to the controversial legislation, which would free workers from paying fees to unions they don’t join. Two changes offered by Republicans passed, making relatively minor changes to the bill.

Rep. Terri Austin, D-Anderson, asks for civility as the House debated right to work Monday afternoon. Photo by Abigail Godwin, The Statehouse File.

One amendment, offered by Democrats, attempted to send right-to-work to a statewide referendum. Democrats stayed out of the House for the majority of last week to work on perfecting the language of the amendment, which was later defeated by majority Republicans.

Rep. Win Moses, D-Fort Wayne, offered the amendment. He said Hoosiers need to have a voice on right to work.

“The citizens of Indiana have a right to participate in a far greater manner than they’ve been allowed to,” Moses said.

House Minority Leader Pat Bauer, D-South Bend, argues for amending right to work Monday afternoon. Photo by Abigail Godwin, The Statehouse File.

But Rep. Ralph Foley, R-Martinsville, said there should not be a need for the House and Senate to send tough issues, including right-to-work, to statewide votes. He said a referendum is “a subterfuge and a two-step that abdicates our responsibility.”

Moses said Hoosiers expect referendums in tough times and that they understand them.

“Referendums are a part of Indiana history,” he said. “They’re contemporary history too.”

The amendment was defeated 59-39.

Other defeated Democrat amendments included a proposal that would have eliminated right to work if the number of businesses in Indiana didn’t increase by 30 percent in three years and if the per capita personal income in the state didn’t increase.

Republicans said such ideas were not workable.

Although Bosma said he hasn’t decided a schedule for Tuesday, right-to-work could be eligible for a final vote in the House then.

“I haven’t determined what the agenda is,” he said. “We’ll take a look tomorrow.”

He said the House can’t conduct any business until Democrats return to do work.

Bauer said his caucus will meet Tuesday to decide what their plan of action will be, but he said his caucus is disappointed.

“They feel shut down,” he said. “They feel shout out.”

Bosma, however, said when he reviewed the tape of the minutes leading up to the walkout, Democrats were not shut out.

He said Democrats had six seconds to offer more amendments after the last one was debated and missed their chance.

“They had six full seconds,” Bosma said. “Which, around here is an eternity.”

Samm Quinn is a reporter for, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

The above story is a corrected version.

Due to an error by The Statehouse File, the story originally said Democrats offered nine amendments. Actually, Democrats offered seven amendments and Republicans offered two amendments. The Statehouse File regrets the error.

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