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Senate ends new try for right-to-work

Last modified: 4/12/2012 12:00:00 AM
The state Senate yesterday decided against joining the House in another attempt to pass a right-to-work bill, conceding that the Republican-dominated Legislature would be unable to overcome a guaranteed veto from Democratic Gov. John Lynch.

"It just didn't seem to be a good use of our time and we wanted to try to focus the remaining session on bills that can have an immediate impact on jobs and the economy," said Strafford Republican Sen. Jim Forsythe, a co-sponsor of the bill who made the motion to table it. "This is something that can help jobs, but it doesn't look like it's going to happen this year."

Last year, the Senate had passed the same right-to-work bill - preventing unions from collecting partial dues for collective bargaining costs from nonmember employees - with exactly the two-thirds majority needed to override Lynch's veto. But the House was unable to produce a veto-proof majority, despite strong backing from House Speaker Bill O'Brien, and the vote there fell 13 votes shy.

"There was strong support for it but it failed to pass into law," Forsythe said. "We expected the same thing to happen so we didn't feel a need to re-establish our position on the bill."

The House passed this year's right-to-work bill on a 198-139 vote last month, again well short of a two-thirds majority. Forsythe's motion to table the bill in the Senate passed on a voice vote, with the understanding the legislation would not be voted on again this year.

Twenty-three states - most recently Indiana in February - have adopted right-to-work laws, though none are in the Northeast. Supporters of right-to-work said it would make the state more attractive to businesses and allow employees to choose whether to support a union.

Labor groups had strongly opposed the bill, arguing it would simply erode collective bargaining power and lower wages. Lynch said in his veto message last year that "states should not interfere with the rights of businesses and their employees to freely negotiate contracts."

House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt, a Salem Republican, said the decision by the Senate was "regrettable."

"We hope that the Senate will remove this important piece of legislation from the table at a later date in order to give it their full and proper review," Bettencourt said in a statement.

That doesn't seem likely. But Forsythe, who is not running for reelection, said the effort could begin anew in 2013 if a Republican governor is elected in the fall. Without a gubernatorial veto, the bill would only need a simple majority in both houses.

"We look forward to having it come back next year, hopefully with a governor who will support it," Forsythe said.

Mark MacKenzie, president of the state AFL-CIO, released a statement yesterday applauding the Senate vote as "a step in the right direction."

"Their vote confirms what we hear each and every day: people are tired of 'right to work for less' dominating the discussion in Concord," MacKenzie said.

Diana Lacey, president of the state employees union, said the Senate demonstrated leadership "by putting aside Speaker O'Brien's never ending war against working families."

"Unlike their 2011 vote, all of the senators know now that this bill has no chance of becoming law and it is good to see them signal to the House that the focus needs to be on job creation," Lacey said.

Corey Lewandowski, state director of conservative group Americans for Prosperity, said in a statement he was "extremely disappointed" by the Senate vote.

"By tabling this bill as a result of (Lynch's) veto threat, the Senate has ensured that New Hampshire workers will have to wait to get the right to negotiate on their own and increase their salaries, and those looking for work will have to wait as the state tries to find other ways to attract more businesses," he said.


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