House Republicans Levy Fines on Absent Democrats
Protest of right-to-work bill reaches boiling point
Most House Democrats were absent from session Wednesday. (WIBC.com photo: Eric Berman)
33 House Democrats have been fined a thousand dollars each after blocking a quorum to debate a right-to-work bill.
The House was supposed to convene Wednesday morning to consider amendments to right-to-work and 12 other bills. Instead, Democrats and union allies held a rally one floor below in the statehouse rotunda, then disappeared into a closed-door caucus.
Democrats are demanding "several days" to rework a proposed referendum on right-to-work that legislative analysts say is probably unconstitutional. House Speaker Brian Bosma says it's just a delaying tactic, and says the fines will remain in force every day Democrats deny a quorum from now on.
Minority Leader Patrick Bauer accuses Republicans of blindsiding him by seeking the constitutional ruling. Bosma says he believes Bauer realized too late he didn't have the votes anyway.
Bosma says he doesn't know who asked the Legislative Services Agency for the ruling, but says L-S-A told him after the fact that the issue has come up before, and the legal analysis is not new.
Five Democrats who have been defying the walkout strategy were on hand for two failed quorum calls and are not subject to the fines. The fines also don't apply to South Bend Democrat Ryan Dvorak, who has been out with an undisclosed illness, and Mishawaka Democrat Craig Fry, who was excused for the day.
Bauer says Democrats disagree with the legal analysis, but are researching ways to get around it. Two possibilities under review: a county-by-county referendum, or a constitutional amendment.
Amending the constitution would postpone the effective date two years and allow the referendum, but would make it harder for a future Democratic governor and legislature to undo it. Bauer acknowledges Democrats are assessing their chances of winning if they went that route.
Bauer says Democrats will also seek a court order to block Bosma from docking their expense checks. A judge ruled last year that the House had the right to impose fines, but left the door open for Democrats to challenge attempts to collect them through payroll deduction.
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» Union Workers March Through The Snow (1-12-12)
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» Daniels Makes Right-to-Work Pitch in State of the State Address (1-10-12)
» House Democrats Stage Another Boycott (1-10-12)
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» Contentious Commitee Hearing on Right to Work Bill (1-10-12)
» House Democrats' Walkout Ends (1-9-12)
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» House Democrats' Caucus Chair Quits Post Over Walkout (1-6-12)
» Senate Panel Approves Right-to-Work Bill (1-6-12)
» Democratic Representative Speaks on Right-to-Work (1-6-12)
» Why Is "Right-To-Work" So Controversial? (1-5-12)
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» State Senator Speaks on Indiana Becoming a Right-to-Work State (11-15-11)
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