By Kristen M. Daum
Republicans in the House voted through legislation this afternoon to make Michigan
the 24th state with a right-to-work law, while the Senate continued debate on a
similar, but separate, bill.
The House vote fell mostly along party lines, 58-52, with all Democrats and some
Republicans opposing it.
Democratic House floor leader Kate Segal, D-Battle Creek, said she would ask
to reconsider the vote during the next day of session, but that decision will be up to
Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall.
Prior to the vote, the 46-member Democratic caucus walked out of the chamber
in protest to the Capitol not being opened to the public, despite an injunction by an
Ingham County Court judge. Democrats retreated to their caucus room and the hallway
behind the chamber, before leaving the Capitol in an attempt to escort the public inside.
Several Democrats said they were locked out temporarily, which initially prevented them from casting their votes. The legislators and the public were ultimately let back in the building around 4:30 p.m.
The House's debate began around 3 p.m., barely four hours after Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and House and Senate leaders announced their definite decision to pursue the legislation.
Republicans were using existing pieces of labor legislation - House Bill 4054 and Senate Billl 116 - to move through the right-to-work provisions without having to introduce fresh bills.
According to legislative records, HB 4054 had been dormant since it was introduced in January 2011, until it was suddenly reported out of committee on Wednesday. SB 116 had also received no action since February 2011 before it was brought forward Thursday.
Senators were continuing to debate amendments on the Senate bill, while the House voted on its bill. However, because the Senate also has a Republican majority, SB 116 was all but guaranteed passage.
Because both bills came from committees, the bills were brought to each chamber's floor for a final vote this afternoon. In order to be enacted though, both HB 4054 and SB 116 would need approval from the opposing chambers. Due to legislative rules, each chamber must consider the bill for at least five days before voting.
In the House, Democrats repeatedly disrupted the chamber with their objections as the bill initially came forward. They forced the clerk to read the revised bill in its entirety prior to debate.
Several Democrats spoke on the floor, voicing their frustrations with Republicans' decision to move so quickly on the bill.
""Why can't you take this to the voters? Because you won't have the votes! This is an outrage!" said Rep. Brandon Dillion, D-Grand Rapids said, in one of several such speeches that drew roaring cheers and applause from fellow Democrats.
Republican legislative leaders said earlier Thursday that they wanted to usher through the right-to-work bill within the "next few days."
As House and Senate members considered the bill, loud boos and chants from protestors out in the Capitol rotunda could be heard within the chambers.
Right-to-work laws make it illegal to force workers to join a union or pay union dues as a condition of employment. Snyder and other Republicans said they feel such a law would promote business and job growth in Michigan, but unions say the law will diminish workers' rights.
Rep. Vicki Barnett, D-Farmington Hills, said Republicans added an appropriation to HB 4054, which would make it immune from being subject to repeal through a ballot referendum. Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood, D-Taylor, said an appropriation was also added to SB 116.
"It becomes obvious: What we're doing is an end-run around the Constitution," Hopgood said. "Why are we putting in this appropriation to prevent the right of the people to referendum? ... We're shutting them out, just like we've shut them out in discussing this bill."
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This article and its write-thrus were featured as the lead story on both Freep.com and USAToday.com during the evening of Dec. 6, 2012. Click the image to view full-size screengrab.