As protesters chanted, drummed, and waved signs outside the Michigan capitol, lawmakers just passed the first of two house-side right-to-work bills.
Without a legislative majority, unions’ Democrat allies were left arguing against the procedure used to pass the bill. They complain that it’s being adopted in a lame-duck session, and they oppose a $1 million appropriation for implementation because it keeps the law from facing ballot referendum.
But the Democrats’ claims are looking more and more strained. Michigan Republicans lost five seats in November, but the vote on the first piece of legislation passed 58 to 51, suggesting it would have passed even in the next session.
And Republican state representative Ken Goike tells me that he voted against right-to-work because his constituents don’t support it, but that his fellow Republicans “didn’t do anything illegal” in the way they passed it.
Goike adds that although right-to-work legislation had proceeded quickly ahead, long debate would not have made much of a difference because Michigan lawmakers already know where they stand on the issue. He reminds me that Democrats used similar strategies for years when they held the majority.
Up in the gallery overlooking the house floor, union protesters chanted “shame on you” and booed after the vote.
There were a few last-ditch attempts by Democrats: Representative Kate Segal and Representative Rudy Hobbs sought to cut the $1 million appropriation, and Representative Vicki Barnett fought to take the policy to the voters.
Both requests, unsurprisingly, were denied. The law, after receiving the governor’s signature, will take effect April 1, 2013.