INDIANAPOLIS The Indiana state Senate on Tuesday approved a proposed law that would limit the power of teacher's unions, despite protests similar to those that have swept Wisconsin and other states.
The bill must still be approved by the state House of Representatives and the governor. Taking a page from the strategy book of their counterparts in Wisconsin, most Indiana House Democrats stayed away from the Capitol on Tuesday in an effort to stall separate "right to work" legislation.
The vote in the Indiana Senate was 30-19 in favor of the measure to limit teacher collective bargaining to wages and some benefits.
Unlike Wisconsin, where a Republican governor is the chief sponsor of the measure on union restrictions, Indiana Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels was more circumspect.
"I thought there was a better time and place to have this very important and legitimate issue raised," Daniels told reporters in Indianapolis.
Daniels has been mentioned as a possible Republican candidate for president. He may also be hesitant to take on unions and Democrats in his state because it could hinder other parts of his ambitious policy agenda.
State Democratic Chairman Dan Parker said he could not confirm rumors that House legislators left the state to deprive the body of a quorum for action on the measure.
Asked whether he would try to compel Democrats to return to the Indiana Capitol, Daniels said: "I'm not sending the state police out for anybody."
The proposal under consideration in the Indiana House is more ambitious than that passed by the Senate. It would make Indiana a "right to work" state. The measure would make it a misdemeanor for an employer to require workers to become or stay members of a labor union. It would also be against the law to require an employee to pay dues, fees or other money to a union.
Indiana state Teachers Association President Nate Schellenberger has called the bill approved on Tuesday a direct attack on the teacher's union.
Indiana is one of several states considering legislation to curb public sector union power in order to cut ballooning budget deficits.
(Reporting and writing by Susan Guyett; Editing by Greg McCune)