INDIANAPOLIS - Gov. Mitch Daniels defended divisive right-to-work legislation while asking House Democrats to end their boycott of the measure Tuesday night.
Daniels spent a large amount of his final "State of the State" speech touting the national reputation Indiana has developed and a modest 2012 legislative agenda. But his support for right-to-work took up one-seventh of his address.
"We just cannot go on missing out on the middle class jobs our state needs, just because of this one issue," he said. "For the sake of those without jobs, and those young people just beginning the ascent of life's ladder, I ask you to remove this obstacle and make Indiana the 23rd state to protect the right to work."
Indiana could become the first state in more than a decade to approve a ban on private contracts that require workers to pay union fees for representation. House Democrats ended a three-day boycott over the measure Monday only to stall business again Tuesday.
Daniels argued that other states win the competition for new business because of their right-to-work laws. But he took care not to downplay Indiana, in a speech laden with plaudits, some of which Democrats took issue with.
"What we heard tonight - 15 minutes of historic back-patting, a few minutes of storytelling and a load of propaganda about policies that will harm working Hoosiers, set our state further behind," Indiana Democratic Party Chair Dan Parker said in a news release. "Hoosiers make less than they did when the governor was elected. There are fewer jobs, and more people are struggling to get by. None of that was reflected in tonight's speech."
Union protesters were in full throat outside the House chamber, chanting "Mitch lies" and other slogans denouncing right-to-work.
Democratic lawmakers were quick to criticize, saying Daniels failed to answer key questions.
"How are we going to create jobs? How are we going to stimulate the economy?" said Senate Minority Leader Vi Simpson. "How are we going to do something other than divide us, which is what right-to-work has been all about."
Republican leaders praised the speech and were critical of the hallway protestors.
"I did find it disrespectful to be booing and chanting during the governor's address, but that's their choice," said House Speaker Brian Bosma. "That's how they choose to show their opposition to some of the policies here."
Rep. Matt Ubelhor (R-Bloomfield) commented on the speech saying, "Governor Daniels has done an excellent job as the leader of our state and it is with his strong leadership and fiscal responsibility that our state is in such good shape.
He added the Governor's leadership has allowed the state to retain and attract more college graduates than ever before, and position our state in the best possible place for resurgence in this economy with triple A credit rating.
State Sen. Brent Steele (R-Bedford) made the following statement Tuesday, in response to Gov. Mitch Daniels' 2012 State of the State Address:
"Governor Daniels set many challenging initiatives before the Indiana General Assembly this year. While this is a short session, there's still a lot to be done. Lawmakers will not only have to work diligently, but we'll have to work together and across the aisle to accomplish goals.
"Debating new ways to attract businesses and bring jobs to our state is sure to take center stage. But there are also several other important legislative matters I'd like to see passed, including a bill meant to close gaps in current human trafficking statutes before the Super Bowl and legislation intended to clarify Hoosiers' property rights.
Steele thanked Governor Daniels for his service to the state and looks forward to working with him in his final year.
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