AUGUSTA — The Maine Senate voted 19-16 this morning to send a bill that deals with union representation back to the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee.

The vote follows House action on Wednesday to refer the bill to the committee for a public hearing.

Senate President Kevin Raye, R-Perry, took the unusual step of coming down from the rostrum to address the full Senate following questions about why the bill was going back to committee at such a late date.

“This bill was pulled out of committee as a clerical error,” he said.

Raye said he wants it to go back to committee so the public can provide testimony on the measure, LD 309, and the committee can give it full consideration. The bill would amend state labor laws so public sector unions represent only those who “voluntarily are members of that union.”

Democrats objected to the move, saying the bill should have been given a public hearing much earlier, given it was released in February. They questioned whether the controversial measure will affect delicate budget negotiations, or whether it could be interpreted as an attempt to interfere with ongoing collective bargaining negotiations on behalf of state workers.

“Unfortunately, this bill could be perceived by outside interests as an attempt to inject this piece of legislation into the collective bargaining process,” said Senate Minority Leader Barry Hobbins, D-Saco.

A public hearing on the measure is likely to be held June 2.