AUGUSTA – A legislative committee split along party lines Wednesday on a bill that would take away collective bargaining rights for in-home child care providers.

Six Republicans on the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee voted in favor of the bill, while five Democrats opposed it. The bill, L.D. 1894, now goes to the House and Senate, where it will be hotly debated.

The bill would repeal a law passed by the Legislature’s Democratic majority in 2008 to allow child care providers who are not state employees but receive state subsidies to unionize. Republicans said they opposed the bill then, and don’t see why the practice should continue.

About 200 of the state’s 1,300 family child care providers have joined the Maine State Employees Association for union representation. The union has given the providers more say in state policies, rules and regulations that govern child care in the state, said Chris Quint, executive director of the MSEA.

The union does not have the power to negotiate subsidy rates received by the providers. That is controlled by the Legislature.

Democrats said the bill is another attempt by Gov. Paul LePage to gain more control over the rates paid to providers. Last year, he proposed reducing rates and disbanding the union, but both ideas were rejected by the Appropriations Committee.

Earlier this week, LePage’s Chief Legal Counsel Dan Billings said it’s unusual for the state to have to bargain with non-state employees.

Negotiations are under way to replace a contract that expired in June.