Indiana Republican Gov. Daniels declines to support GOP-pushed right-to-work bill

Indiana Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels declined Tuesday to support a GOP-pushed right-to-work bill that had led House Democrats to flee the state to avoid a possible vote on the bill.

“I don’t attempt to dictate the agenda. I’m not in position to, really, of a separate and free-standing superior branch of government,” Daniels told reporters in an afternoon press conference. “For reasons I’ve explained more than once, I think there was a better time and place to have this very important and legitimate issue raised.”

Daniels also seemed to say that Democrats fleeing the state was a “perfectly legitimate part of the process,” which is how he described the “activities of today.”

“Even the smallest minority, and that’s what we’ve heard from in the last couple days, has every right to express the strength of its views and I salute those who did,” he said.

The right-to-work bill has long taken a back seat to education reform bills in Daniels’ priorities, but his Tuesday statement was read by many conservative activists as an unnecessary capitulation to union forces.

Daniels said he would not send any state police to pick up AWOL Democrats, but would “trust that people’s consciences will bring them back to work and I choose to believe that our friends in the minority will, having made their point, will come back and do their duty and the jobs they are paid to do.”

Daniels told the Indianapolis Star in December that while right-to-work is a “legitimate” issue, it might constitute a barrier to educational reforms because Republicans had not campaigned on the measure as a priority.

“It may be worth a look but I don’t think it should be a subject of debate and vote in this particular General Assembly,” Daniels said, adding it has “the potential to stop or block our opportunities to make real head-way for kids and local government and criminal justice.”

Daniels aides argued that today’s Indianapolis Star story on Daniels’ remarks mischaracterized his position on right-to-work, and that he doesn’t want the bill killed.

Video of the press conference is here, and a transcript of his remarks, here.