Indiana News

House Still Paralyzed As Democrats Continue Boycott

Dems may conduct their own field hearings on right-to-work

1/5/2012


Rep. Pat Bauer and fellow Democrats remain absent from House floor.  (WIBC.com file photo:  Eric Berman)

With the Indiana House still in a stalemate over a right-to-work bill, Democrats are floating the possibility of conducting their own hearings on the bill around the state.

For a second straight day, all but four Democrats remained in a closed-door caucus away from the House floor, preventing the chamber from convening. Without a quorum, the House can't officially assign bills to committees. Committees have been going ahead with unofficial hearings -- including one set for Friday on right-to-work -- but can't vote on the bills.

Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) dismisses the plans for field hearings as a delaying tactic. He says legislators and voters have had a summer of study committee meetings, numerous town halls, and Friday's scheduled hearing to learn about the bill.

"The public understands this bill," Bosma declares. "[Minority Leader Patrick] Bauer keeps alleging that he doesn't understand it....I can't tell if he really does understand it, or is confused, or if it's part of the whole shtick."

Failure to convene Thursday means the push toward right-to-work will have to slow down by at least a few days, since the House Labor Committee will have to give notice of a new hearing if and when the House finally musters a quorum.

For 30 of the 40 House Democrats, a third straight boycott on Friday would open the door to daily thousand-dollar fines under a law passed in response to last year's five-week walkout. Bosma has discretion over whether to invoke that law, and says he hasn't decided what to do.

Reps. Steven Stemler of Jeffersonville, David Cheatham of North Vernon, and Peggy Welch of Bloomington have defied the Democratic boycott. Stemler was the only Democrat to show up for work during last year's walkout.

One or two other Democratic legislators have been on the floor at times for procedural reasons, and a handful of representatives were excused from Thursday's session.

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