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Indiana GOP drops anti-union bill, but Democrats stay out of state

Indiana, protests
Protestors hold up signs outside the Indiana House chambers at the Statehouse in Indianapolis, Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011. Seats emptied by Democrats who have left the chamber in protest are reflected in the window. AP Photo/AJ Mast

Republican lawmakers in Indiana have given up on a controversial anti-union bill that drove Democratic legislators out of the state, but Democrats want to see other controversial bills dropped before they return, the Indianapolis Star reports.

Like Wisconsin Democrats before them, Indiana Democrats yesterday fled their state to stall a vote on a state bill that would weaken unions. But while the legislative battle rages on in Wisconsin, the Indiana labor measure known as the "right to work" bill is now effectively dead. Republicans in the state say they will move the issue to a legislative committee for review later in the year, according to the Star.

The bill in question would have prohibited union membership or fees from being a condition of employment.

Even though the bill is dead, Democrats say they'll stay out of state -- specifically, in a hotel in Urbana, Illinois -- until Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma and Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels drop 10 other bills they oppose, all relating to either labor or education. The Democrats are primarily opposed to a measure for private school vouchers, the Star reports.

Republicans say they aren't dropping those measures, however. Yesterday, Daniels conceded that Republicans should set aside the controversial "right to work bill," in spite of his support for it. Today, however, the governor told the Star that the bill to create education vouchers is "my priority."

Daniels has been taken to task by conservative pundits for his conciliatory language on the "right to work" bill.

Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post today criticized the governor for giving up on the issue without getting anything in return.

"That's bad bargaining, and rightly or wrongly will be taken as a sign of weakness by the Democrats," she wrote. "Another smart, very aggressive governor told me a short time ago, 'All of life is a negotiation. You have to convince the other guy you are more serious than he is.' Daniels, I would argue, did just the opposite."

Erick Erickson of the conservative blog Red State wrote that Daniels "decided he wanted a truce on fiscal issues just like he wants on social issues."

Erickson notes that Daniels in fact ended collective bargaining for public sector unions (the subject of debate in Wisconsin) by executive order when he entered the governor's office. However, he says that's not the point.

"The point is that with wind at Scott Walker's back in Wisconsin and Chris Christie's back in New Jersey to finally take on unions, Indiana is the next battleground for taking the fight to the unions," he wrote.