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Speaker puts off veto override vote on right-to-work bill

By Tom Fahey
State House Bureau Chief

May 25. 2011 12:32PM

CONCORD - A widely anticipated House vote to override a veto of the right-to-work bill never happened Wednesday.

Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt. R-Salem, said in explanation, "The Speaker looked at the House and who is present today and determined this is not the appropriate time."

Attendance in the House is at one of its highest levels of the year, with more than 375 members casting votes on most bills.

The decision was a likely indication that Speaker of the House William O'Brien could not round up the two-thirds supermajority he needs to override Gov. John Lynch's veto of House Bill 474.

O'Brien's attempt to close the House session without a veto vote prompted debate, but Republican members backed up the Speaker and he proceeded to wrap up business.

Unions complained, saying O'Brien should be interested in holding a vote when attendance is highest, not when members who side with him are on hand are ready to vote.

HB 474 prevents unions from collecting partial dues payments from non-members. The payments are meant to cover the costs of negotiating and enforcing labor contracts that must cover members and non-members alike.

Those who favor right-to-work the bill say it prevents workers from being forced to join unions, but organized labor says court rulings prevent forced membership.

AFL-CIO president Mark MacKenzie, accompanied by about 75 members of several unions, criticized O'Brien for the delaying tactic.

"What's he waiting for? The only reason he can be waiting is to play games with this," MacKenzie said.


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