Another Session, Another Walkout
House Dems boycott first day, call for more public input on right to work
House Minority Leader Pat Bauer and House Speaker Brian Bosma (WIBC.com file photos: Liz Thomas and Eric Berman)
It's deja vu all over again at the Indiana House.
A year after a five-week walkout, all but four Democrats refused to come to the floor for the first full day of the new session. That left the chamber three members short of a quorum to do business.
Minority Leader Patrick Bauer (D-South Bend) charges Republicans are trying to ram through a right-to-work bill without enough public input -- he says a scheduled Friday hearing and a series of hearings over the summer weren't enough. Bauer says given the significance of the bill, legislators should hold field hearings around the state.
Bauer doesn't guarantee that would bring Democrats back to work, nor is he flatly declaring they won't come back otherwise. But he says field hearings would be "a carrot, not a stick" to come back.
Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) says he'll assess whether there are good-faith discussions going on before attempting to force Democrats to the floor, through fines or the chamber's sergeant at arms. But he's accusing Democrats of letting Hoosier unions call the shots, and warning the boycott jeopardizes other bills scheduled for early hearings, including local government reform and a smoking ban.
No votes were scheduled for the session's opening day. But the 96 bills and one constitutional amendment filed so far must be formally handed down to the full House before they can be assigned to committees for hearings.
The Senate has scheduled a joint committee hearing with the House on right-to-work for Friday, clearing the way for a floor vote as early as next week. The bill would still have to go through the process a second time in at least one of the two chambers.
After last year's walkout, legislators passed a new anti-bolting law imposing automatic fines against members who deliberately skip three straight session days to deny a quorum. But Bosma says that law doesn't prevent the House from imposing fines on its own, as it did last year.