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Democratic lawmakers leave Indiana, block labor bill

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Indiana House Democrats took a page from the playbook of their counterparts in Wisconsin on Tuesday, refusing to show up and at least temporarily blocking a Republican-backed labor bill.

Nearly all stayed away from the Statehouse completely and headed more than a 100 miles west to neighboring Illinois. Only three of 40 House Democrats were in the chamber when Republican Speaker Brian Bosma tried repeatedly to convene it, leaving the chamber short of the two-thirds needed for a quorum.

The Democratic caucus issued a statement Tuesday night saying members had relocated to Urbana, Ill., "for the immediate future" to continue reviewing Republican proposals on public education changes and so-called right-to-work legislation that would prohibit union representation fees from being a condition of employment at most private-sector companies.

"By staying here, we will be giving the people of Indiana a chance to find out more about this radical agenda and speak out against it," the statement said. "We will remain here until we get assurances from the governor and House Speaker Brian Bosma that these bills will not be called down in the House at any time this session."

While the desks of 37 Democratic legislators were empty, several hundred union members crowded the adjourning hallways and held up signs to windows looking into the House with slogans such as "Stop the War on Workers."

It was the second day of large union crowds at the Statehouse, with the spark being a GOP-led committee on Monday taking up the right-to-work legislation.

Wisconsin's Senate hasn't been able to take up a bolder measure that would strip nearly all public employees' bargaining rights since that chamber's Democrats left the state Thursday.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who had urged fellow GOP legislators not to act on the right-to-work bill this year, told reporters he would not use state troopers to compel Democratic legislators to return. Daniels had said he was worried that acting on the contentious right-to-work issue could derail other parts of his legislative agenda.

"I trust people's consciences will bring them back to work," Daniels said. "I choose to believe that our friends in the minority, having made their point, will come back and do their duty, the jobs that they're paid to do."

Because House Democrats skipped the entire day's floor session before Bosma adjourned Tuesday night, the right-to-work legislation missed a procedural deadline for further consideration. However, Republicans could find other ways to consider it later.

Republicans released a list of 23 bills they said would fail at the same deadline, although none are on major topics.

Minority walkouts in the Indiana House have happened periodically in the past, including in 2001 by Republicans and 2005 by Democrats.

Union groups oppose the right-to-work bill as well as some other proposals moving through the Legislature, including restricting teacher collective bargaining rights, expanding charter schools and reducing jobless benefits for some people as part of a plan to fix the state's debt-ridden unemployment insurance fund.

Rep. Terri Austin of Anderson, one of the Democrats on the House floor Tuesday, said Republicans have put forth a very partisan agenda that Democrats would keep fighting until the legislative session ends in late April.

"We've still got time," Austin said. "There is time to work out some compromises and that's what we hope we will be able to do."

Jerome Davison, an officer of the 3,400-member Steelworkers union at the ArcelorMittal steel mill in Burns Harbor, applauded the Democrats' boycott and said union members planned to continue showing up at the Statehouse.

"This is not a policy no one cares about," Davison said. "This is about paychecks and benefits."

Republican leaders, however, described Democrats as trying to kill legislation that could help the state.

"It is our responsibility to examine and discuss and decide upon policies that could be helpful to the citizens of Indiana in creating and retaining jobs so that we can grow our economy," said House Majority Leader William Friend, R-Macy. "We should at least have that discussion."

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  • Both Sides of the Aisle
    Thanks for wasting the taxpayers' time and money.
  • Mitch is involved....
    Marcus, I believe that Mitch does prefer these bills. He just doesn't want them to be a political target for his campaign.
  • Look closer
    Rick, they aren't just "doing the bidding of the governor." They are doing this on their own. The Governor doesn't want the immigration bill. The Governor doesn't want the gay marriage amendment. The Governor doesn't want the right-to-work bill. Don't take the easy route and blame Governor Daniels when this is clearly the extremist elements of his own party doing what they will, despite him.
  • Just Look
    Look at all of the protesters at the Capitol. Isn't that a clue that legislators are getting ready to push something through that isn't good for Indiana residents. The Republicans are doing the bidding of the governor not the people. Many thanks to the Democrats, they are doing their job!!!

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  1. I still don't understand how the FBI had any right whatsoever to investigate this elderly collector. Before the Antiquities Act it was completely legal to buy, trade or collect Native American artifacts. I used to see arrow heads, axes, bowls, corn grinders at antique shops and flea markets for sale and I bought them myself. But that was in the late 60's and early 70's. And I now know that people used to steal items from sites and sell them. I understand that is illegal. But we used to find arrow heads and even a corn grinder in our back yard when I was a child. And I still have those items today in my small collection.

  2. I lived in California and they had many of the things noted in the proposed suggestions from the "Blue Ribbon Panel". California is near financial collapse now. Let's not turn the great state of Indiana into a third world dump like California.

  3. The temporary closure of BR Avenue will get a lot of attention. But, one thing reported by the IndyStar really stands out to me, and is extraordinarily depressing: “Police also have agreed to crack down on noise violations, traffic violations and public intoxication.” In other words, the police have generously agreed to do their jobs (temporarily, at least), instead of just standing around waiting for someone to call 911. When is someone in this department going to get off their fat arse (looking at you, Chief), get their minds out of 1975-era policing and into 2014, and have his department engage in pro-active work instead of sitting around waiting for someone to be shot? Why in the hell does it take 7 people getting shot in one night in one of the city’s biggest tourist destinations, to convince the police (reluctantly, it would appear) that they actually need to do their f’n jobs? When is the Chief going to realize that there’s a huge, direct, proven correlation between enforcing the law (yes, all laws, especially those affecting quality of life) and preventing larger crimes from occurring? Is it racial BS? Is that what this extraordinary reluctance is all about? Is the department and the city terrified that if they do their jobs, they might offend someone? Whom, exactly? Will the victims of violence, murder, assault, rape, robbery, and theft be offended? Will the citizens who have to tolerate their deteriorating quality of life be offended? Will the businesses who see their customers flee be offended? Or, is it simple ignorance (maybe the Chief hasn’t heard about NYC’s success in fighting crime - it’s only the biggest g*&#am city in the country, after all)? Either way, Chief, if you don’t want to do your job, then step down. Let someone who actually wants the job take it.

  4. I thought Indiana had all the funding it needed for everything. That's why the state lottery and casino gambling were allowed, as the new tax revenue would take care of everything the state wanted to do.The recommendations sound like they came from California. Better think about that. What is the financial condition of that state?

  5. I was a fan of WIBC in the morning, Steve was the only WIBC host that I listened too, he gave the news with so much flare that I enjoyed listening to him on my way to work. Katz is no Steve. Sadly, I will not be listening to WIBC anymore.

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