Daniels defends right-to-work in 'State' speech

January 10, 2012 - 8:15 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Gov. Mitch Daniels has defended divisive right-to-work legislation that he only recently put his name behind, while asking House Democrats to end their boycott of the measure.

Daniels spent a large amount of his final "State of the State" speech Tuesday night touting the national reputation that Indiana has developed over his seven years in office, as well as a modest 2012 legislative agenda ranging from more money for victims of the Indiana State Fair stage collapse to a statewide smoking ban.

But the Republican governor dedicated roughly one-seventh of the speech to explaining his evolution in support of right-to-work this year. Daniels made no mention of the issue in his annual speech last year, then urged lawmakers to hold off lest it derail other legislation like an overhaul of the state's education system.

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. Indiana House and Senate Republican leaders have made it their top legislative priority this year, and Daniels has campaigned vigorously since announcing last month that he would support it the measure.

House Democrats ended a three-day boycott over the measure Monday only to stall business again Tuesday.

In his final annual address to the Legislature, the governor argues that other states win out in competition for new business because of their right-to-work laws.

"Too often we never get a chance, because a right-to-work law is a requirement. Especially in this poor national economy, a state needs every edge it can get," he says.

But Daniels also took care not to downplay Indiana in a speech that is otherwise laden with plaudits about his work over the last seven years.

Daniels is term-limited against running for re-election in November.

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Tom LoBianco can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/tomlobianco.