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.
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.