Where are the Democrats? (Day Two)

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander….both parties have staged “walkouts” before.

Indianapolis – Indiana House Democrats are making national headlines this week as they take a leaf out of the Wisconsin Democrats’ playbook by fleeing their home state. The lawmakers are unhappy over what they call a “radical” agenda being forced by their Republican colleagues. At issue is legislation affecting labor unions and education, among several bills.

Gov. Mitch Daniels told reporters Tuesday that he had no intention of using Indiana State Police troopers to haul the wayward lawmakers back to the Statehouse to force a quorum. But the Democrats remain at a hotel in Urbana, Illinois as of Wednesday. They say they are caucusing.

The Indiana Democratic Party is paying for the trip, including the hotel and meals, although the lawmakers are still receiving their per diem and salary while they’re out of state, something that has irked their Republican colleagues as well as taxpayers. House Speaker Brian Bosma says he’s considering fines, censure, or suspending the per diem to compel their return.

While a number of bills fell by the wayside Tuesday night, I’ve said time and again there’s no such thing as a bill being dead. We’re at the halfway point of the 2011 legislative session. If labor legislation and other bills “die,” they could still be amended in the second half of the session.

In 2001, Republicans were in the minority. They were unhappy with what the majority Democrats were doing, and the Republicans walked out for two and a half days. They returned on April 29th, the last day of that legislative session, and finally got business done. Both parties have pulled this stunt over the years.

Other notes:

Bosma had stern words for union workers who were protesting loudly Wednesday morning. While those who were inside the chamber were respectful during the Pledge of Allegiance, there were some loud boos at one point. Bosma told them he welcomed their participation but said he wouldn’t tolerate any outbursts from the gallery. When Bosma gaveled out he said the protesters wouldn’t be allowed back into the chamber for the afternoon session. Outside the chamber, the atmosphere was boisterous – there was even a live band playing.

During our noon live shot Wednesday, we did a quick poll asking the union workers where they were from. Many said Indianapolis, but we also heard Peru, South Bend and Anderson, just to name a few of the towns and cities represented.

Where are the Democrats?

Indiana House Democrats weren’t in the Statehouse Tuesday, and it was unclear if they planned to show up.

Strange day at the Indiana Statehouse. While hundreds of union members showed up Tuesday at the Statehouse, Democrats did not.

Two Democrats were in the chamber to announce that the minority was caucusing somewhere outside the Statehouse. When questioned about whether they would be returning Monday to conduct business, the answer was vague.

At noon, House Speaker Brian Bosma read out the roll call of representatives who were not present.

“I think this is a walkout. I can’t recall a time when we’ve come in to take attendance in the morning and the minority party has not even shown up for that,” said Bosma (R-Indianapolis).

“I am not going to tell you where they are but I can assure you that all the Democrats are working very hard. There are 27 bills and one bill alone had 44 amendments. We are reviewing those very carefully. What we are trying to do is figure out a way to save the state from this radical agenda that has been forced upon us and actually we’ve been given no chance to shape or amend,” said Rep. Terri Austin (D-Madison County).

On Monday, thousands of union  workers rallied against a bill that would prohibit union membership and fees from being a condition of employment.

Bennett addresses wife’s connection to charter schools organization

Some WTHR viewers have pointed out a connection between the wife of Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Tony Bennett and the Indiana Public Charter Schools Association.

Some WTHR viewers have pointed out a connection between the wife of Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Tony Bennett and the Indiana Public Charter Schools Association.

When asked if she were employed by the organization, Bennett responded, “No, she’s not. My wife served as a consultant for the Indiana Public Charter Schools Association. She separated herself from her contract as a consultant a week ago last Thursday.”

Bennett went on to say, “I wonder how many of our organizations who feel that that’s a valid attack would also attack the members of our General Assembly – who, by the way, vote on legislation and I don’t – who are employed by our state’s higher ed institutions, who receive money from the General Assembly, or who are public school teachers whose corporations receive money, have they accused them of engaging in some type of conflict of interest?”

Watch our complete interview here (this question is addressed in the final minute of the interview.)

Gov. Daniels makes pitch to C-PAC

Can a Republican win the nomination for president by campaigning down the middle?

Gov. Mitch Daniels at C-PAC

Gov. Mitch Daniels’ speech before C-PAC Friday night is raising eyebrows and questions.

Can a Republican win the nomination for president by campaigning down the middle? Normally Republicans lean to the right in the primary fight and Democrats to the left. That leaves the middle as the battle ground in the general election.

However, the Indiana governor didn’t use his opportunity before C-PAC to pander. There was some controversy over the group even giving Daniels the mike at all. Some said they would boycott because of his recommended truce on social issues.

Daniels did not back away, telling his conservative audience that “purity in martyrdom is for suicide bombers.” Then he added, “I for one have no interest in standing in the wreckage of our Republic saying I told you so or you should’ve done it my way.” Instead he preached about the need to broaden the party’s base. Earlier in the week in the Indiana Statehouse he had praised President Ronald Reagan for doing that very thing. Now he is asking his party to remember where it came from.

Could it be that the governor realizes the religious right in his party has already lined up behind Sarah Palin or does he believe his party can’t defeat an incumbent with that narrow of a focus? Palin is preaching exclusion – us against them; a campaign of division.

Daniels, remembering Reagan, is calling for a party of addition. He quoted John Adams’ diary entry while en route to Philadelphia when he wrote “great things are wanted to be done.” That may turn into his rallying cry but watching all this unfold I can’t help but think of another entry Adams made when writing to his wife Abigail back in Massachusetts. He penned “but it is my destiny to dig treasures with my own fingers.”

Now it will be interesting to see who is willing to get their hands dirty along with him. 

Daniels in the spotlight at CPAC

Gov. Mitch Daniels will step into the spotlight Friday night.

Gov. Mitch Daniels will step into the spotlight Friday night. The governor is planning a speech before a conservative group in Washington, DC. The governor will be introduced by conservative columnist George Will.

The only thing we know for sure about Friday’s speech is that he will not be announcing his candidacy.

I think we will hear him defend his controversial stand of asking Republicans to call a truce on social issues until the economic issues confronting the country are resolved. He has taken some heat on this from the right in the GOP. Now he gets the opportunity to defend himself against that criticism and outline the agenda as he sees it for the country.

At CPAC Thursday, 11,000 people turned out to hear Donald Trump, among others. While the governor may not have that star power, his attraction here is on-the-job experience.  He’s been successful in the business world, has balanced budgets in government, has worked for two presidents including Ronald Reagan, which carries a lot of weight, and timing is everything. 

If I know Gov. Daniels, he will not miss an opportunity to talk a little bit about events in Egypt and America’s role in this and the world. I will be watching it and have the details tonight at 11:00 pm.

Teachers plan rally over education reform

Tuesday is the day we get a real understanding of the line drawn between Republicans who are pushing for education reform and the teachers’ union.

Tuesday is the day we get a real understanding of the line drawn between Republicans who are pushing for education reform and the teachers’ union. The late afternoon rally promises to be like that of right to work rallies at the Statehouse. Turnout could be huge. We’ll have a preview story at Noon on Eyewitness News and coverage at 5:00 and 6:00 pm.

Students for Mitch Daniels

A group called Students for Mitch Daniels is putting this ad on the air in Iowa during the Pro Bowl coverage this weekend:

A group called Students for Mitch Daniels is putting this ad on the air in Iowa during the Pro Bowl coverage this weekend:

“So I met this guy a couple of years ago. He told me he was different. He bought me a car. He even subsidized my medical insurance. Everything was perfect until I got my credit card bill. It turns out he was spending all of my money. Now there’s a new man in my life. Mitch Daniels. He doesn’t need to rely on fancy rhetoric or empty promises. You know what he’s all about? Fiscal responsbility.”

They intend to also run the ad in New Hampshire and here in Indiana. The group adds that the governor has not approved the message but the ad says, “Tell him to [approve it].”

VP Biden makes several gaffes at Greenfield plant

There’s a difference between Ener1, a local lithium-ion battery maker for electric cars, and Enron.

 Vice President Joe Biden was in Greenfield Wednesday at the new Ener1 facility touting  advanced technology vehicles.  The employees at the plant assemble the lithium-ion batteries that power the Think City electric car going into production in Elkhart.

He didn’t waste any time endearing himself to the audience when he mentioned a number of local dignitaries, but one may wish he hadn’t.

 The VP said, “I understand State Senator Gard is here.  I want to recognize him.  I was told he as here.”  She was.  No word yet on what State Senator Beverly Gard thought of his pronouncement, but he didn’t stop there.

 As I mentioned he was visiting Ener1, which he happened to interchange twice with Enron1.  It is understandable but there is quite a difference there.

Thoughts on Mike Pence

There is speculation that Congressman Pence may announce that he is not running for president but not directly address a possible gubernatorial bid.

Indiana 6th District Congressman Mike Pence says he will announce a decision by the end of this month about his political future.  Speculation has him considering a run for governor or president. 

When asked, Pence has never wavered in his response.  He says he is prayerfully considering his options with his family and appreciates all the feedback he is currently getting here at home and all around the country.

But the announcement we are all anxiously anticipating within the next week may not answer all of the questions.   There is speculation that Congressman Pence may announce that he is not running for president but not  directly address a possible gubernatorial bid. 

New state law that forbids fundraising during a budget session of the Indiana legislature may have a hand in that, although no one seems to know for sure how that law applies to a potential run for governor by a sitting congressman.

Obviously the only one who truly knows is the Congressman.  Hopefully we will all know the answers to both questions within the next week. 

Gov. Mitch Daniels has already announced that he will not make any announcement about his political future until after the current legislative session.  He may not be the only one.

Pence quits House leadership

Indiana Congressman Mike Pence is stepping down from the House GOP leadership team. The decision frees Pence up to consider a run for the White House in 2012 or for Indiana governor.

Indiana Congressman Mike Pence is stepping down from the House GOP leadership team. The decision frees Pence up to consider a run for the White House in 2012 or for Indiana governor.

In a letter Pence sent out today he says, “Now that we have restored a Republican majority to the House of Representatives and I have fulfilled my commitment to the Republican Conference, my family and I have begun to look to the future.”

He also writes, “We will continue our duties serving the people of Indiana and do what we have always done in such times; we will wait on the Lord and follow where He leads.”

He may well be laying the groundwork to run for Indiana governor. Last night he was fairly noncommittal. He talked about a stronger country and a stronger Indiana.

Eyewitness News asked Rep. Pence if we’d see him in Iowa. He chuckled, then said, “Let me tell you, we’ve been completely focused on November 2nd up to this day. I’ve just been absolutely determined to do everything in my power to make sure we elect a conservative majority back to Washington, DC and help this good governor in Indiana get a majority in the General Assembly. We’ll take a look at the future starting tomorrow. But tonight we’re gonna celebrate a great victory for the American people.”

At that time, he no doubt knew that the letter announcing his resignation from the leadership team would go out.