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Indiana House sets $250 daily fines for boycotters

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Indiana House Democrats who are boycotting the legislature over labor and education bills they oppose will be imposed fines of $250 per day under a decision made by Republicans on Thursday that increased tensions in the political standoff.

Most House Democrats skipped Thursday's floor sessions, extending their stay at an Urbana, Ill., hotel to a 10th day and preventing action on the bills because too few members are present. The fines would start being assessed on Monday and be deducted from the salaries or expense allowances of the absent members.

Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma said he decided to seek the fines because the Democratic boycott had reached "the point of absurdity."

"We've tried every other means other than conceding to a list of demands and this is one of the few items that we have as options," Bosma said.

Similar fines have been imposed — then dropped — during previous House walkouts over the years. But when Democratic Rep. Charlie Brown of Gary mentioned that point during floor discussion of the motion, Bosma turned on his microphone at the speaker's podium and interjected "I wouldn't count on that."

While Bosma later apologized for interrupting Brown, the threatened fines seemed to have already soured Democrats.

Minority Leader Patrick Bauer called the fines "two steps back" from progress toward a resolution after he returned to Indiana for a Statehouse meeting Wednesday with Bosma and other Republican leaders.

"It is a far less penalty than what hundreds of thousands of workers are going to be paying if their bills are passed," Bauer said, referring to the proposed Republican-backed legislation.

Bauer said Democratic legislators planned to remain in Illinois through the weekend and that it was "very doubtful" that they would return on Monday.

"The atmosphere is suddenly as hostile as when we left," he said in a telephone conference with reporters. "We thought there was improvement, but obviously not."

Democrats have been seeking to narrow the scope of a proposed private school voucher program and change or set aside some labor-related bills, including measures that would exempt many government construction projects from the state's prevailing wage law and prohibit local governments from setting a higher minimum wage.

Republicans on Thursday did drop for now the possibility of a formal censure against the absent Democrats, although Bosma said that could be brought up later.

Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel, said he thought it was appropriate for the missing members to have their personal finances affected.

"Every citizen in Indiana is being disenfranchised because without a quorum none of us can conduct the state's business," he said.

Republicans calculate that the absence of the Democrats has cost more than $250,000 in taxpayer money for the salaries and expenses of running the House during the walkout, which Bosma called "a very expensive temper tantrum."

There will be no additional expense to the state, however, if the General Assembly completes its business by late April and no special session is needed.

Democratic Rep. Kreg Battles of Vincennes said threatening fines won't "stop the madness."

"This is just one of a series of decisions that further divides and further alienates the parties rather than bringing them together," he said. "Fining is punitive and it doesn't fix the problem at all."

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  • Costs
    We are missing one calculation here--the expense of running the union on the back of its members, which has no economic value whatsoever in terms of job creation (except for union employees) and no value added (what happens when you take 2 parts and assemble them into something with a higher value). The unions employees are afraid of losing their jobs because the voters also spoke out about them--and told them they were tired of paying inflated wages and costs of government due to unions which no longer truly have the members' best interests in mind.
  • Reps are elected, not party lines
    Being elected doesn't mean you're obligated to a party line. It means they elected you based on the platforms you ran on, not the platitudes of your party.

    I guarantee half these guys would have lost their elections if they added "union-busting" to their platforms. Surprisingly, none of them did.
  • Representation?
    How is it that 100% of the republican representatives are serving their population when only 54% of their OWN PARTY constituents agree with the legislation?

    Being voted in isn't a referendum for your PARTY, it's for your people. Being a better option doesn't mean you're given carte blanche.
  • Slow down
    The Dems are saying slow down. We voted out the dems because they did what the republicans are trying to do now - push too many things through and call it a crisis.

    Bosma admited that the bills are not perfect. Daniels admited that SB577 is flawed. Guess what, they are not killing some of these bills that are not perfect. When the democrats come back everything will pass, but just like obamacare there will be some good things but goodness when you make it a law you better be darn sure what you are doing. NOW slow down.
  • The Republican platform had none of these item for the voters to consider.
    For the election, the Republican platform said nothing about these plans. Republicans also had nothing about lowering, in this time of budget issues, the state corporation tax rate!!!! Since the Republicans ignored their election platform, I am happy the Democrats are trying to save the middle class and our public schools. At least some of the Democrats have integrity. (kind of like Mitch selling the interstate and screwing all the people in Northern Indiana. Now elitist Mitch wants to hurt the middle class some more, while giving the state to corporations.
  • Should've been $10,000
    per day. Bet they would run back home over $10,000 per day. What babies. I don't care if it's the Repubs or Dems doing this, it is a very irresponsible way of dealing with an issue. What a bunch of nincompoops.
  • Bye Bye Dems
    I can't wait until the Republicans get the opportunity to work on making the legislative district more reflective of the voters in this state. It'll be nice to see when these democrats have to face the music and not live in districts that were gerrymandered by Bauer to achieve his old majority.

    What will be especially nice is when about 20 of these yahoos in Illinois have to run against each other because they will both be in the same district. What are they going to complain about in the campaign...my opponent didn't due his job as a representative for your district because he was out of state.
  • Saving Us
    What we don't understand is that the Democrats are saving us from ourselves. Sure we voted them out of power back in November, but it their minds, and the minds of their supporters, we were wrong to do that. They think they know better than we do what is good for us. This is their way of protecting us from ourselves.
  • Do your job
    Yes, get back in there Democrats so the Republicans can pass the bills that really matter. Let's get these 1950s decade bills passed. Anti-Gay, Anti-womens rights, Anti-foreigners, pro-smoking, anti-Sunday sales, pro-religion, pro-big business, anti-labor, and anti-civil liberties. Make Indiana the best place to work and die (not live) in America.
  • Do your job
    The democrats have a job to do they were voted out. Get back to the state house and vote. When the republican bills pass if the people do not like it than we will vote democrat next time and you guys can change it that is how it works. You work for all of us not just the unions.
  • I agree
    I lean Democrat, but I do agree with Bosma that this is getting absurd. The voters spoke and voted out the Democrats as a majority. It is not only the Republican's job to put through their agenda, but their obligation.
    • Not Enough
      The fines should not start Monday. It should be retroactive to the first day they were absent. Come on Bosma, make it really hurt those loser Dems.
    • Who Pays
      the Absent Democrats have expense account to cover their cost while in session. so, who is paying for the stay in IL? Are they going to be allowed reimbursment for their vacation?
    • Unions
      Republicans haven't destroyed the country it's the union and their cry baby entitlement members complaining and the idiot democrats holding up the Senate.
    • Too Bad!
      Republicans calculate that the absence of the Democrats has cost more than $250,000 in taxpayer money for the salaries and expenses of running the House during the walkout, which Bosma called "a very expensive temper tantrum."
      Really? How much does he think he will cost the hard working union workers in this state if he passes this bill? Republicans have destroyed this country.

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