TERRE HAUTE — With emotions simmering in the Statehouse and lawmakers’ work halted by a Democratic Party walkout in the House of Representatives, it’s become increasingly clear that Gov. Mitch Daniels and Speaker Brian Bosma were right.

Both Daniels and Bosma cautioned fellow Republicans early in this legislative session that some issues — particularly the so-called “right-to-work” initiative — could be counter-productive. They agree with the principles behind right-to-work legislation, which would prohibit union membership and fees from being a condition of employment. But they see the issue as potentially so divisive that it could hinder the legislature’s ability to complete more pressing parts of the GOP agenda, such passing a budget, education reform or redistricting.

Despite Daniels’ and Bosma’s efforts to dissuade fellow Republicans, the bill was introduced anyway. A Republican-led House committee on Monday voted along party lines to advance the measure to the full House.

Supporters say such a law would remove a barrier to attracting business expansions to the state. Opponents say it would weaken unions and drive down wages.

More than any other issue this session — and there have been many — this bill has triggered a heated outburst of political energy, primarily from the state’s unions. It is undoubtedly the most aggressive anti-union legislation out there right now, and the heavily Republican makeup of the General Assembly makes it likely the measure will pass if it comes up for a vote.

Democrats have opposed but tolerated, begrudgingly, a number of GOP agenda items making their way through the process. But there has been no doubt since opening day of this session that right-to-work legislation is where Democrats would draw a line in the sand. For them, it is a matter that goes to the foundation of the party’s principles.

The right-to-work debate goes far beyond the business-expansion/pocketbook issue. Unions are a base constituency for the Democratic Party, and it is widely believed that any law that weakens union clout in the marketplace, as this one would, also weakens the Democratic Party. That fact is not lost on Republicans as they try to take advantage of their newfound control of state government.

No one should be surprised that, despite urgings of their governor and House speaker to avoid the issue this session, the Republican Party is flexing its muscle over some of the more contentious partisan issues. Nor should anyone be surprised that Democrats are willing to play hardball in return, denying the House a quorum by refusing to arrive in the chamber on Tuesday.

Both sides are battling with the best weapons they have. Clearly, those weapons will not resolve this serious stalemate.

We urge Gov. Daniels and Speaker Bosma to step forward again and ask their fellow Republicans to temper their anti-union crusade this session. Right-to-work may be a legitimate issue for discussion in the future, but we agree with Daniels and Bosma that now is not the time.

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