INDIANAPOLIS Indiana's Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed right-to-work legislation on Wednesday, sending on to Governor Mitch Daniels a controversial measure that could hit organized labor in the pocketbook.
Once signed into law by Daniels, who gave the Republican response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech on Tuesday, the law would make Indiana the first right-to-work state in the country's traditional manufacturing belt.
The measure was passed by the state Senate on Monday and Daniels has made it a top priority of his agenda, saying it would help Indiana attract businesses and jobs to the state.
The House approved the law by a 54-to-44 margin, even though five Republicans joined Democratic lawmakers to oppose it.
The state Senate voted 28 to 22 in favor of the measure, with nine Republicans joining all 13 Democrats in voting against it.
Under the law, employees in the state cannot be forced to pay union dues -- even if they work at companies where the workforce is unionized. Such statutes are in force in 22 states, mostly in the South and West.
Supporters of the law said it would attract jobs to the state. Opponents have called it "union busting" designed to weaken a key Democratic constituency in an election year.
State House Democrats had used delaying tactics to try to thwart passage of the measure. They stayed off the House floor for several days to deny the majority Republicans a quorum. Republicans responded by imposing $1,000-a-day fines on the missing lawmakers, which the Democrats fought in court.
Democrats also sought to introduce several amendments, including an effort to put the right-to-work measure before voters in a referendum, but Republicans defeated them.
(Writing by James B. Kelleher; Editing by Greg McCune)