The Statehouse File
Mitch Daniels won't go out quietly.
That became clear at his eighth and
last State of the State address Tuesday night.
An hour before the speech began, the Indiana State Police opened the doors to the
Statehouse and right-to-work protestors started filing in. They kept coming all
through the speech.
As they gathered, they began to chant.
NO RIGHT TO WORK!
KILL THE BILL!
And, as the time drew near for the
governor to enter the chamber of the Indiana House of Representatives:
MITCH IS A LIAR!
The chants continued, growing at times
into a wall of noise. Daniels may have been rattled by the furor, gazing upward
toward the ceiling occasionally as if he were trying to determine where that
sound was coming from.
The governor spoke for roughly 30
minutes. Most of his speech was a victory lap, a recounting of past triumphs.
He hurried through much of his
legislative agenda – a tougher human trafficking law, a smoking ban, rapid transit for Central Indiana and funding for victims of
the Indiana State Fair tragedy.
Some items got a phrase. Some got a
sentence. A few got an entire paragraph.
With the right to work, though, the
governor took his time. He devoted six paragraphs, by far the longest part of
the speech, to arguing for a law that would prevent employees from having to
pay fees to unions to which they do not belong.
"Almost half our fellow states
have right to work laws. As a group, they are adding jobs faster, growing
worker income faster, and enjoying lower unemployment rates than those of us
without a law. In those ratings of business attractiveness I mentioned, the only
states ahead of us are right to work states," Daniels said.
When the governor spoke those words,
the crowd's chants became a snarl and then a roar.
MITCH IS A LIAR! MITCH IS A LIAR!
When the governor's speech reached its
climax, so did the crowd's fury. Boos bounced off the limestone walls of the
Statehouse like waves crashing in a storm.
When Daniels finished, most Democrats
walked out before he left. Several didn't even attend the speech.
I asked Sen. Brent Waltz, R-Greenwood,
if he'd ever seen anything like that at a State of the State.
Hundreds of union members swarmed the
Statehouse to protest Gov. Mitch Daniels' final State of the State address, in
which he advocated right-to-work legislation that labor groups oppose. Photo by Olivia Ober, The Statehouse
Waltz shook his head.
"You'd probably have to go back to
the Civil War to see something like this – when the feelings were running
this high," he said.
Waltz said that he was trying to find a
compromise on right to work – an exemption from the law for the building
trades – and said that he had support within the Senate Republican
caucus. But he said he wasn't optimistic.
"The Democrats won't vote for it,"
Minutes later, I caught up with Nancy Guyott, president of the Indiana AFL-CIO.
I asked her about Daniels' speech. She
said she hadn't heard it because she had been outside the Statehouse, checking
on the lines of protestors still trying to get in.
"They were wanding
everyone and that really slowed everything down," she said.
I told Guyott
that the governor had said that two-thirds of Hoosiers support right to work.
She shook her head.
"That's not accurate," she
said and cited a Ball State University survey that showed that 48 percent of
Hoosiers don't even understand what right to work is.
The governor asked in the speech for
lawmakers keep the struggle within the walls of the Statehouse.
I asked Guyott
if, given the fact that she didn't seem to have the votes to stop right to
work, Democrats and labor were going to try to take the fight outside the
She smiled ruefully.
"I'm not conceding that I can't
stop it in the building," she said, but added that it was in her side's
interest to take the fight outside.
She also said that, if right to work
became law, it would be in issue in the November election.
"They (Republicans) didn't run on
this. That's kind of what's hit people upside the head," she said.
People began leaving the Statehouse,
still buzzed by the experience.
As they left, they talked about what
they'd seen, what they'd heard, what they'd done.
And not quietly.
Not quietly at all.
Krull is director of Franklin College's Pulliam
School of Journalism, host of No Limits, WFYI 90.1 FM Indianapolis and executive
editor of The Statehouse File, a news website powered by Franklin College