If you are following the right-to-work
debate in the Indiana General Assembly
General Assembly, you probably have whiplash from your head spinning back
and forth trying to figure out where things are going.
You are not alone.Events are changing so frequently that
by the time this post is written we could be staring down an entirely different
set of political circumstances.One
element that seems to be sorting itself out, however, is whether a voter
referendum could ease the right-to-work gridlock.
On Friday, both Indiana House and
Senate Democrats unveiled amendments for a referendum on RTW.The measure basically said that if RTW
passed the General Assembly, which it likely will, then it would go into effect
on Monday, November 5.However,
voters would get the chance to reject it on the November 6 election and if they
did, it would be repealed on November 7.Democrats have argued that on a matter this big, the
public should have input.In
addition, they argue the public doesn't know much about the issue so it needs
time to make an informed decision.Note, the latest AFL-CIO
poll showed 35 percent of the public supports RTW, 36 percent oppose or
somewhat oppose RTW, and 30 percent had no opinion.
Senate Republicans and House
Republicans in general oppose the referendum idea, even though the House will
allow a vote on the measure.They
argue a statewide referendum violates two provisions of the Indiana State Constitution
Article 1, Section 25
No law shall
be passed, the taking effect of which shall be made to depend upon any
authority, except as provided in this Constitution.
And Article 4, Section 1.
Legislative authority of the State shall be vested in a General Assembly, which
shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives. The style of every
law shall be: "Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of
Indiana"; and no law shall be enacted, except by bill.
Since the Indiana General Assembly is the only body that can create
statewide law, Republicans say a voter referendum would violate the state Constitution.
Referenda are allowed, however, for amendments to the Constitutions. Voters
At the local level, referenda are allowed to get around property tax caps as
well some other measures like the elimination of township assessors.Apart from property tax caps, the only
statewide referendum I discovered in the modern era that affected policy, per
se, was the lottery in 1988.Indiana voters by a 62 percent majority voted to repeal the prohibition
in the Indiana Constitution against gaming and the lottery.However the creation of the Lottery
didn't happen until it was approved by the Indiana Legislature in 1989.
Ultimately, the RTW decision will be made where it should be, with the
Indiana General Assembly.
This is a republic not a direct democracy and people elect their officials
to represent them.Critics are
correct when they say no one campaigned on this issue, but by that logic and
elected official could only introduce bills that they campaign on; which makes
If you want to see real referendum madness up close and personal check out
California where the same people who approve tougher sentencing measures via
referendum are the same people who, via referendum, refuse to pay to build new
And if we can do a referendum for right to work, why not on reproductive rights
rights, education reform, or whether sugar cream pie should be the official
pie of the State of Indiana?
Stop the madness before it begins.
Abdul-Hakim Shabazz is an attorney, the editor of IndyPolitics.Org and a frequent political analyst for RTV 6.