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An intraparty argument goes public

  • Blog Post by: Lori Sturdevant
  • March 20, 2012 - 3:48 PM

Into the Something Not Seen Every Day at the Capitol file goes Tuesday's news briefing by 13 Republican backers of a constitutional amendment that would ban unions from requiring every worker for whom they collectively bargain to pay dues or "fair share" payments, otherwise called "right to work."

Seldom does a rump group within a majority caucus summon reporters to criticize -- albeit politely -- their own leaders for not advancing a bill.

The news conference made visible a quarrel within GOP ranks that has been rumbling in private discussions for weeks. "Right to work" is law in 23 states, mostly in the South and West and often on the books for decades. In the wake of GOP gains in statehouses around the country in 2010, it's making the rounds again, and became law in Indiana a few weeks ago. Backed by some of the Legislature's most conservative Republicans, it's hotly opposed by organized labor, which could be expected to pump sizeable sums into a campaign to defeat it if it lands on the November ballot.

Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, stopped short of accusing GOP leaders of succumbing to fears about the effect union money would have on the fall campaign. But, he said, "I don't know of anyone who opposes it on the merits" -- leaving reporters to surmise the reason for the leaders' hesitation.

Sen. David Thompson, R-Burnsville, was asked whether he was frustrated or angry with Senate Majority Leader David Senjem, R-Rochester, for not yet giving the bill its day at the Senate Rules Committee. "I'd rather say I'm disappointed," he demurred.

For all their careful phrasing, Hann, Thompson & Co. laid bare a division within House and Senate GOP caucuses of the sort that might have been kept under wraps under different Senate leadership one year ago. The change might not please GOP partisans. But to one who thinks the Capitol was built to house robust exchanges of ideas, it feels as if the windows are opening. 

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