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Indiana House faces pressure to finish work on time

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The Indiana House spent its first full day back since boycotting Democrats returned to their jobs doing something it couldn't do the last five weeks: working on bills.

Representatives debated points on prickly subjects such as abortion, private school vouchers and elections, took votes and maintained a cordial atmosphere. For the most part, it felt as if the walkout had never occurred, but the boycott puts lawmakers on a tighter calendar as they work to tackle big issues before the scheduled end of the legislative session April 29.

The House dove into two big proposals — the state budget and a plan to direct taxpayer money to private schools — Tuesday as they worked from the morning into the night. The brisk pace was expected to continue as the House deals with its own agenda, which was stalled by the walkout, and the Senate bills they would normally be handling at this point in the session.

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said the five week "vacation" by House Democrats means lawmakers may have to work on Fridays and Saturdays. He said representatives would go with little sleep and eat sandwiches and pizza while working at their desks if necessary to get work done.

"We are under tremendous time pressure here," Bosma said. "We have five weeks to complete 2-1/2 months' worth of work, but we will complete it."

Lawmakers — who had plenty of time to think up proposed amendments during the Democrats' boycott — filed nearly 350 on the budget alone that could have been called for votes Tuesday.

Among those actually discussed was one that would remove a provision that allows the governor to withhold allocations made in the budget. Rep. Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, said the budget becomes a mere suggestion if the governor can override lawmakers' intent.

"The budget just doesn't have any meaning any longer," Pelath said.

Republicans say that provision is needed to keep the state in the black during tough times. Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels has cut millions from state spending in the current budget cycle, for example.

Rep. Jeff Espich, R-Uniondale, said governors should have the power to make cuts when the Legislature isn't in session.

"They're elected to lead," Espich said. "There are times they must lead."

Republicans, who hold a strong majority in the House, defeated the proposal.

Lawmakers also took up a sweeping voucher program that would use taxpayer money to help parents send their children to private schools. The bill was one of the core reasons House Democrats fled to Illinois on Feb. 22, denying the House the quorum needed to conduct business. Democrats returned Monday after winning concession on that bill and others, and the changes to the voucher bill were formally adopted Tuesday.

Lawmakers limited the program to those meeting certain income levels based on family size. The bill as originally proposed would have allowed those from a family of four making more than $100,000 to use vouchers, but the amendment approved Tuesday reduced that level to about $60,000. The House also included limits on the number of students who could participate in the program during its first two years.

Republicans turned back several Democratic proposals, including one that would only allow vouchers for students in underperforming schools.

Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis, called the voucher bill a "massive entitlement program" and said he wouldn't vote for it. But he said the changes made Tuesday do improve the legislation.

"We've made enormous progress," he said.

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  1. So much for Eric Holder's conversation about race. If white people have got something to say, they get sued over it. Bottom line: white people have un-freer speech than others as a consequence of the misnamed "Civil rights laws."

  2. I agree, having seen three shows, that I was less than wowed. Disappointing!!

  3. Start drilling, start fracking, and start using our own energy. Other states have enriched their citizens and nearly elminated unemployment by using these resources that are on private land. If you are against the 'low prices' of discount stores, the best way to allow shoppers more choice is to empower them with better earnings. NOT through manipulated gov mandated min wage hikes, but better jobs and higher competitive pay. This would be direct result of using our own energy resources, yet Obama knows that Americans who arent dependent of gov welfare are much less likely to vote Dem, so he looks for ways to ensure America's decline and keep its citizens dependent of gov.

  4. Say It Loud, I'm Black and Ashamed: It's too bad that with certain "black" entertainment events, it seems violence and thuggery follows and the collateral damage that it leaves behinds continues to be a strain on the city in terms of people getting hurt, killed or becoming victims of crimes and/or stretching city resources. I remember shopping in the Meadows area years ago until violence and crime ended make most of the business pack you and leave as did with Lafayette Square and Washington Square. Over the past 10 to 12 years, I remember going to the Indiana Black Expo Soul Picnic in Washington Park. Violence, gang fights and homicides ended that. My great grandmother still bears the scares on her leg from when she was trampled by a group of thugs running from gun fire from a rival gang. With hundreds of police offices downtown still multiple shootings, people getting shot downtown during Black Expo. A number of people getting shots or murdered at black clubs around the city like Club Six on the west side, The Industry downtown, Jamal Tinsley's shot out in front of the Conrad, multiple fights and shootings at the skating rinks, shootings at Circle Center Mall and shooting and robberies and car jackings at Lafayette Mall. Shootings and gang violence and the State Fair. I can go on and on and on. Now Broad Ripple. (Shaking head side to side) Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Ashamed.

  5. Ballard Administration. Too funny. This is the least fiscally responsive administration I have ever seen. One thing this article failed to mention, is that the Hoosier State line delivers rail cars to the Amtrak Beech Grove maintenance facility for refurbishment. That's an economic development issue. And the jobs there are high-paying. That alone is worth the City's investment.

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