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Indiana House Democrats still refusing to work

March 7, 2011

An Indiana House Democrat threatened Monday to continue the caucus's ongoing boycott "as long as it takes" to get changes made to Republican-backed proposals, even if their absence shuts down state government when the current budget expires in June.

Rep. Terry Goodin, D-Austin, said Monday that Democrats are prepared to deny the House the quorum it needs to conduct business until Republicans agree to changes. If lawmakers don't pass a new budget by the time the current one expires June 30, most of state government would shut down.

"We will stay out for as long as it takes — if that's April 29th, if that's May 1st, if that's Dec. 31st," Goodin said. "We will stay out as long as we have to stay out. We will not give in ... we will compromise, but we will never surrender."

House Minority Leader Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, told reporters over the phone from Urbana, Ill., that he didn't think Democrats would be back when Republicans try again to convene Tuesday. But he said Democrats are considering their options "day by day" and he wouldn't yet predict a government shutdown. The Democrats fled to Illinois Feb. 22 to boycott proposals they consider an assault on labor unions and public schools.

"I am hopeful we'll remedy this," Bauer said. "I believe this can be done. It's not that difficult."

So far neither side is budging. Democrats say they'll stay out until Republicans negotiate changes to several bills. House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, has repeatedly said he refuses to be bullied into taking GOP-backed items off the House agenda and says he won't hash out a backroom deal with Bauer.

"These matters will be settled on the floor of the House," Bosma said. "We need them to get back here."

The current legislative session is slated to end April 29. If lawmakers don't pass a budget by the time they adjourn, Gov. Mitch Daniels could call a special session to get a budget in place. If Democrats continued their boycott during a special session, it could eventually lead to a government shutdown on July 1.

Goodin — one of three Democrats at the Statehouse Monday — said blame for any potential shutdown shouldn't fall on Democrats. He said it's Bosma's responsibility to negotiate a compromise.

"The speaker of the House will be the person who shuts down this government," Goodin said.

Bosma had little to say about Goodin's statement other than it was the 39 boycotting Democrats who were causing the House to stop business.

"I keep kidding myself with confidence that they're going to return and conduct the business they were elected to conduct and end the strike and get back to work," Bosma said.

Bosma said he didn't talk to House Minority Leader Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, over the weekend. Bosma said he's initiated five phone calls to Bauer since the boycott began, and Bauer has not initiated any phone calls to him. Bosma said he did send Democrats a letter explaining $250-a-day individual fines that would be imposed on absent members beginning Monday, but hadn't heard anything back.

Bauer said he would try to contact Bosma Tuesday to talk.

Bosma and Bauer met last week in an open door meeting both sides called positive, but the talk ended without any agreement and Bauer returned to Illinois.

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