Saturday, February 04, 2006

Senate Kills Young's Anti-Employee Bill; House Kills Anti-Immigrant Bill

When the General Assembly does the right thing and kills a very bad bill, we feel obliged to point it out. That can certainly be said of the Indiana Senate's 38-12 vote defeating SB 108, which was authored by Sen. Mike Young (R-Indianapolis).

As we previously described the bill, it was nothing short of a war on working people. Young wanted to wipe out the only hammer in Indiana law which employees and their attorneys can use to get employers to pay up wages they owe to their employees, and to give employers greater discretion to withhold wages from their employees for such things as uniforms, tools and tuition reimbursement.

The penalty provision of the law, which makes employers pay their employees up to double the amount of their unpaid wages as liquidated damages and their attorney's fees, would have been eliminated altogether. In its place, Young proposed a simple interest penalty of 18% per year, and he would have left it to the discretion of the court to award attorney's fees. As Sen. Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) observed, the bill would have effectively deprived employees of legal representation in wage dispute matters.

So bad was Young's proposal that not a single pro-employer organization advocated for its passage--a point made well by Senate President Pro Tem Bob Garton. The only surprise in the vote was that there were actually 12 senators who thought it a good idea. One of them was Sen. Brent Waltz (R-Greenwood), who during debate on the bill claimed that one of his successful start-up companies struggled with the reality that it could not effectively charge employees for their uniforms and had to turn down employment opportunities to those who couldn't front the pay for their uniforms. The struggles one must face in life when he inherits a fortune at the age of 18 as Waltz did.

On the House side, members took a strong stand against an anti-immigrant bill, HB 1383, which House Speaker Pro Tem Eric Turner (R-Gas City) proposed to deprive illegal aliens of certain government benefits enjoyed by all others, and to put state law enforcement in the business of immigration enforcement. The House voted HB 1383 down on a 74-19 vote.

Turner was criticized for seeking to write penalties in the law for illegal aliens while ignoring the employers who illegally hire them. Rep. John Aguilera (D-East Chicago) evened the score by proposing a killer second reading amendment to the bill which imposed stiff monetary penalties on Indiana employers who hire illegal aliens, which Turner opposed. Aguilera's amendment was adopted to the dismay of Turner on a vote of 55-43.

Rep. Mike Murphy (R-Indianapolis), who has been criticized by Advance Indiana for promoting an anti-gay agenda as Marion Co. GOP Chairman, even rose to oppose Rep. Turner's mean-spirited assault on the state's growing Hispanic population. Perhaps Murphy is beginning to take some of our past criticism of him to heart. One lone Democrat, Rep. Vern Tincher (D-Terre Haute) joined 18 Republicans in supporting this very bad legislation. Some of Advance America's favorite legislators were among that group of 18, including Rep. Woody Burton, Rep. Billy Bright, Rep. Eric Koch, Rep. Jeff Thompson and Rep. Troy Woodruff.

No comments: