Indiana House walkout brings talk of recall elections

March 16, 2011

The Republican speaker of the Indiana House said Wednesday that the ongoing walkout by Democratic legislators has stirred up interest in potentially making such actions illegal or allowing voters to remove boycotters from office.

Most Democratic House members skipped Wednesday's House session, extending the boycott that began when they left for Illinois on Feb. 22 over education- and labor-related bills they find objectionable.

Speaker Brian Bosma also rejected a suggestion from Democratic leader Patrick Bauer that the bill on which the two sides seem most split be set aside for now and sent to a special study committee.

Bosma told reporters that many voters have asked about being able to have recall elections on the missing members, which state law doesn't now allow. He didn't have a specific proposal for the recalls, but said he would want to focus on elected officials who weren't doing their jobs.

"We need to have elected officials who are free to make appropriate decisions, participating in the democratic process and not be subject to undue influence," Bosma said. "But in this case we've had people who've left the state."

Bauer said raising such suggestions was a way for Republicans to distract from the real issues in the impasse.

The absent Democrats are facing $250-a-day fines that were imposed by majority Republicans beginning last week.

Bosma said Republicans also were looking at an 1867 state law since repealed that made it a misdemeanor with $1,000 fines for legislators to intentionally break quorum, which under the state constitution requires two-thirds of legislators to be present to conduct business.

Passage of that law was sparked by a post-Civil War dispute over approving the 14th Amendment, which guaranteed citizenship to freed slaves and anyone born in the U.S.

Bosma said such recall or quorum laws couldn't be used in the current situation to force the Democrats to show up.

"It won't be our first order of business when they return, but it has worked its way onto the things-to-do list," Bosma said.

The Democrats don't expect to return to the Statehouse this week, Bauer said, but believe they've made progress toward acceptable changes on some issues with Republicans.

Bauer sent a letter Tuesday to Bosma asking for the study committee on a bill changing the regulations covering wages and other matters for workers on government construction projects.

Bosma, however, said he wouldn't agree to take any issue off the House agenda for debate and vote.

"We said we weren't going to reward this behavior," Bosma said. "To concede to even a small list of demands ... will just encourage the next group of legislators to flee the state and have someone else pay their expenses."

Bauer held out optimism for a possible resolution.

"I do think we've narrowed it down pretty well," he said. "We're not that far apart. We can get this done."


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