Speaker Brian Bosma of Indianapolis told the Associated Press he is confident he can push the "right-to-work" bill through his chamber during the 2012 session that begins Wednesday and is spending a lot of "personal capital" to do so.
"We assume nothing," Bosma said. "I don't assume we have all the Republicans' votes, in fact I know I don't, and I don't presume we don't have some Democrat votes either."
Bosma, who has been the measure's most ardent supporter, said he hadn't yet taken a formal tally of supportive votes, but added he "also wouldn't bring it forward if I wasn't confident of success."
The proposal would bar private employee unions from seeking contracts that mandate all workers pay union fees regardless of whether they are members. Supporters say the law would help attract new business to the state. Opponents call it an attempt to weaken organized labor.
Indiana's House Democrats successfully blocked the measure last year with a five-week walkout that denied House Republicans the numbers needed to conduct daily business. Democratic leaders have so far declined to say whether they'll walk out again this session.
If Bosma and other right-to-work supporters are successful this time around, they would hand national conservatives and business groups a major win on an issue that has recently eluded them elsewhere. It also would deal another blow to organized labor, which has seen mixed results in its fight against initiatives to curb union rights nationwide that followed Republican wins in Statehouses across the country in 2010.
Indiana would become the 23rd state to enact a right-to-work law, but the first to do so since Oklahoma in 2001. More than a dozen other states considered such legislation last year, but none managed to adopt the measure. New Hampshire lawmakers came closest when they were able to pass a bill but couldn't find the votes needed to overturn a veto from Democratic Gov. John Lynch.
Republicans hold wide margins in the Indiana Legislature: 60-40 in the House and 37-13 in the Senate and GOP Gov. Mitch Daniels has come out with strong support for the measure.
The procedural push starts in earnest with a joint hearing of the House and Senate labor committees Friday, just two days after lawmakers return for their 2012 session. But Bosma has been pushing the measure hard since the middle of November, when he declared it would be his top legislative priority.
"We have a limited period of time to do a lot of work this session and the Super Bowl in the middle of the session complicates it just a bit," Bosma said. "There's no time to sit around and wish that things were moving forward, we're going to move them forward expeditiously."
This year's Super Bowl is Feb. 5, in Indianapolis, just a few blocks from the Statehouse.