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Indiana Democrat fighting fines for walkout

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Democrats who boycotted the Indiana House for five weeks are receiving smaller stipends because fines incurred during the walkout are being deducted from their checks, but at least one Democrat is fighting the process.

Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, believes the fines are illegal, and is contesting the legality of deducting money from his state check to cover the cost, The Journal Gazette of Fort Wayne reported.

"We exercised our right to express our views. We did nothing wrong," GiaQuinta told the newspaper. "We want due process to be followed, and if it is, we will pay."

The walkout by most House Democrats in protest of education and labor bills pushed by majority Republicans left the House with too few members to conduct official business for five weeks. The House leader eventually imposed fines that ended up topping $3,000 for most of the absent Democrats.

Lawmakers have already been paid their full salary for the year. But they also receive a daily stipend of $152 while in session, which is paid in a weekly check. Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma has ordered the weekly per diem checks reduced by 20 percent for Democrats — cutting checks from $912 to $729 — until the fines are paid in full. Bosma said he would also accept personal checks to cover the fines if lawmakers want to pay all at once.

House rules state that members — even without a quorum — can "compel the attendance of absent members, make an order for their fine and censure and adjourn from day to day until a quorum is in attendance." Bosma said he's confident the fines are legal.

"I don't have any concern about that," he said. "If somebody wants to take this matter to court, I think they'll find themselves in a difficult spot."

But Fort Wayne Attorney Mark GiaQuinta, Phil GiaQuinta's brother, sent a letter Monday to State Auditor Tim Berry, whose office issues the checks, and the clerk of the House arguing it is illegal under several Indiana statutes to deduct the fines from the per diem paycheck. Mark GiaQuinta said he is representing only his brother, not other members of the Democratic caucus.

"The practice of deducting fines from employee wages is viewed both historically and uniformly as a pernicious act outlawed in most, if not every, state of the union," he wrote in the letter.

Berry said his office merely receives a pay grid from the House each week that shows how much each member should receive.

Bosma has asked the state Attorney General and an outside attorney for opinions on the letter, but hasn't stopped the process of withholding.

"My response at this point is I see no reason to change course," Bosma said.

The fines have divided the former boycotters in private Democratic caucuses, with some members gladly willing to pay the fines and others objecting, The Journal Gazette reported.

"I'm fine with it," said Rep. Win Moses, D-Fort Wayne. "It's in the House rules, and our absence triggered them."

Moses said he will likely pay the fine with a personal check soon. He didn't criticize his colleagues who are fighting it, saying "everyone has their own life and their own reasons."

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  • Let's sue GiaQuinta
    Why should we, the taxpayers (and his boss) have to pay the Dems the salary for the full legislative session when they were AWOL for 5 weeks. I think we should sue to recover the salaries that they collected, even though they didn't show up for work!
  • jim.alerding@cliftoncpa.com
    Hey What The, it came from my owned computer from my owned business on my own time. What about you? Where did yours come from? Who employs you? Government? Unions?

    Jimmy, you can try to get the Republicans out next time but I doubt you will succeed. I have always voted but those of us that don't need help or a bus to get to the polls are energized and voting now. I guess you couldn't get Bauer to pass the Sunday stuff when he was ruling the roost?
  • Step up
    Take responsibility!!!! You showed how bad your party is now pay up and let this embarrassment go away.
  • House Members
    ...are not employees in the traditional sense; they are not covered by the cited statutes. Pay Up. If it'd been me, I'd be withholding the whole flipping per diem check - especially the ones for while they weren't here!
  • Get over it
    Pay the fines. It was stupid to walk out. Demos should have stayed and taken their medicine. So what, Repubs wanted to pass a bunch of socially backward laws. Let them do it. Next time you get a majority, your overturn them. Politics in Indiana. Get on with it. Pass some stuff that allows Sunday sales. At lease we'd get some more Sales Tax collected. Let the Repubs brag about creating jobs and a better economy, and then concentrate on the social stuff only their right wing cares about. Everyone sees thorugh that. Get back in there you dems and finish the beating. Your time will come next election when everyone votes these 1940ish Repubs out for good.
  • More $
    Since they have already received their salary for the year, the walkout is costing additional tax payer dollars by extending the number of days in session. Cancel the per diem altogether for both parties; this way we will actually know that their intentions are aligned with the voters, not their pocketbook.
  • Consequences
    Republican heavy handedness on this may come back to bite them.
  • Waste of company dollars
    Big Daddy Jim, did you just send this while at work on a company owned computer?
  • Well said, Big Daddy
    No need to add to Big Daddy Jim's comments...right on the mark.
  • jim.alerding@cliftoncpa.com
    Hey Phil, you don't look stupid enough by walking out to begin with and now you want to insult the taxpayers even more by objecting to the MEANS of collecting the fine. If you don't think it is appropriate or legal to do it by withholding from your Stipend then man up and write a check. I am sick of people like you. I hope the voters throw you out next time around. More waste of taxpayer money having to defend this ridiculous claim.

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