Protest turns to camp for border-crossing Indiana Democrats

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The carpenters union sent a fruit basket. The local Subway shops rolled out the welcome mat. And someone, no one quite knows who, planted the Indiana state flag on the mantel in the lobby of the Comfort Suites.

These are the signposts marking Urbana, Ill., a college town 140 miles south of Chicago, as the temporary home of 37 Indiana Democratic House members. They left their state Tuesday to prevent the quorum needed to vote on a bill limiting collective bargaining rights for public employees.

Labor unrest and proximity have made the Land of Lincoln the haven of choice for out-of-state lawmakers looking to block Republican-backed bills. While Wisconsin politicians are in hiding at undisclosed locations in Chicago area, a sort of summer camp in the dead of winter has broken out for Indiana legislators in Urbana, home of the University of Illinois.

“I haven’t been worn down yet,” said House Minority Leader B. Patrick Bauer, 66, his mouth full of barbecue while discussing his stay with reporters on Thursday.

Back in Indianapolis, thousands of union members rallied at the Indiana Statehouse this week. The lawmakers watched via Skype.

Nobody at the hotel, including Bauer, knows how long the stay will last. That has left them plenty of time to answer questions, including one of the most common: Why Urbana?

It’s the closest out-of-state city to Indianapolis, which is just 120 miles east of Urbana along Interstate 74, said Representative Win Moses of Fort Wayne.

“It was just convenient,” said Moses, 68, noting that the legislators didn’t have to worry about trouble with the law because Illinois has a Democratic governor, Pat Quinn.

As for their choice of the Comfort Suites, the lawmakers passed on another establishment on the University of Illinois campus because it didn’t have enough rooms or a suitable meeting facility, Moses said.

“Secondly, they had a lot of bars there,” he said. “We said we didn’t want any bars. There’s no bar here, so everyone’s comfortable and we stay focused that way.”

That doesn’t mean they aren’t exploring the Champaign- Urbana area. The website of Urbana’s twin city of Champaign boasts of an “extensive park system, a world-class library, urban shopping choices and a variety of living accommodations.” Representative Jeb Bardon of Wayne Township owns several Subway sandwich franchises, so he took the time to visit local Subway locations.

For his part, Moses has had trouble finding his way around.

“I know where the Cracker Barrel is and the little food place across the road, but that’s about it,” he said.

One landmark Moses would like to see before heading back to Indiana is Blue Waters, a supercomputer being built on the University of Illinois campus. It will be one of the fastest in the world upon its completion.

Mike Frerichs, a Democratic Illinois state senator, is making arrangements for them to visit it.

“We really want to,” Moses said. “It’d be a great thing to see from a technological, economic development standpoint.”

While the lawmakers may get a look at Blue Waters, there’s little chance they’ll have the opportunity to take a dip in the waters of the Comfort Suites’s pool before returning home.

“None of us packed our swimming suits,” Moses said. “You don’t normally plan for that in Urbana in the winter.”



  • Ben Franklin
    Ben Franklin said, "No man should sleep while Congress is in session!" I know I for one am sleeping much easier while Bauer and his minions are in Illinois since no new laws to get into my wallet, from either side, can be passed while they are gone. Hurrah! I hope they all move there and stay there. Maybe they could move next to Homer and Marge's house...
  • Democracy redefined
    Hoosier Democracy in 2011: 1. Rule by the disgruntled minority. 2. Rule by the unenlightened few. (Take your pick, and never go down without a "flight".)
    • Well said
      Well said, citizen! I just keep hearing over and over again that the unions ensure bosses don't have the right to tell employees what to do, when to do it and how. What? That doesn't even make sense. Isn't that the point of a boss? At least it's been my experience in the real working world that we need that sense of authority to know what to get done and what the priorities are.
    • costs
      what makes any of you think its costing indiana more for Dems to be in IL than it would be to send state police? and isnt it their right as reps to do what they want to not vote? and arent most of those of you complaining about the reps not working posting from a desk at work?
    • Who's paying?
      Who is paying for the hotel and meeting room rentals? If it's tax payers, democrat or republican, you should be upset. Some day Corp's will be able to rid the unions. It will make Indiana and America a much better and cheaper place to do business.
    • Stay there forever
      I hope they never come back. The joke is on them. Hopefully, they never figure out who owns the hotel they are staying in.
    • Politics as Usual
      First, the right to work law, which used to be the law of Indiana, simply says that a person does not need to pay Union dues if they are not in the Union, and that they cannot be compelled to join the Union. If the Union is not attractive enough to induce new members at the work place, then why should they use the collective bargaining agreement to coerce employers into firing people? That is not job creation, that is extortion of the working person who just got fired for not paying dues to the Union bosses. It happened to me.
      Second, if you don't like special interest groups, then how can you like Unions, the ultimate special interest group? Unions do not represent the majority of anything and the money goes to funding Union organizations that may or may not actually provide value to workers; however, they most dutifully provide more-than-adequate support to the Union leaders. Remember the embezzled pension monies from union after union and the ISTA debacle?
      Unions have the effect of reducing jobs, not increasing jobs, by making it more difficult for new businesses to settle in that location and by raising the hourly rate for employees. If an employer believes that its employees should be Union, then it can certainly require that of new hires. If the Union makes itself attractive to business through job training, education, and other value-based benefits, then employers would be happy to have their businesses Unionized. This happens with regularity in the commercial construction business. Forcing Unions down everyone's throats without value being added by the Union is part of why the U.S. is not even close to competitive on a cost basis with other countries. If the citizens of Indiana want more businesses and more job opportunities in Indiana, then the right to work is a key element in that quest.
      Third, before attacking Republicans for pushing through legislation just because they can, please remember what the last two calendar years were like in the U.S. Congress. You probably applauded those actions by the Democrat supermajority. We cannot all be on the dole from the government. In fact, the Constitution never contemplated that anyone would be on the dole. Now more than half of the U.S. Citizens, and many non-citizens, are receiving benefits from the government. National bankruptcy is looming, but everyone is still out to drain the last drop of blood out of the national carcass for themselves. Selfishness is greed, too.
      • GOP should have disclosed party plans BEFORE election
        I for one must thank the Democrats. Mitch, just as when he sold the Toll Road, made no hit of his attacks before the elections. We elect those to represent us without any knowledge of what these elected officials will do. Mitch, in his budget plans before the elections, said nothing about giving state corporations a tax reduction. Why are we giving elite business owners even more money!!! How is the middle class doing? I guess when your are Mitch, just put a spin and say ââ?¬Å?evil unions destroyed education.ââ?¬ï¿½ He needs more slaves for the good of corporate America.

        The Democrats are no worse than the Republications. Democrats are Just not good at putting a spin on the messages.

      • Shoe on the other foot
        We conservatives have been sitting on our hands while the progressive liberal agenda has been being rammed down our throats for the last several years. The voters said "Enough" at the ballot box in November 2010 and put the GOP in charge of reigning in the free-spending Democrats. Now the Dems want to whine about not getting their way after forcing their agenda on Hoosiers for the last several years? Tough! Take it like a man, Mr. Bauer or don't bother coming back! We are looking for solutions, not whining, sniveling cowards who turn and run away.
        Where was the compromise on ObamaCare? Obama wouldn't even talk to conservatives. Nor did we have a voice in any other bill for that matter. And what did Democrat leadership say? Basically to sit down and shut up was what they said. Now it's out of their control and all they do is obstruct any effort to save the country from bankruptcy.
        Shame on them!!!
      • Idea for Pat Bauer
        Let's hope that Pat Bauer's fruit basket from the unions will have a gift certificate for him to get a new, decent-looking toupee while he's on his junket. That would be almost make the huge waste of time worth it!
      • new math?
        Last time I checked, our democracy was based on a "majority rules" basis, not on a "if the minority doesn't like what the majority wants, it should run away and stifle democracy" basis... perhaps Pat Bauer and the IN House Democrats should invite their union staffers to the Comfort Inn in Urbana, IL an revisit their charter... and perhaps choose to stay there.
      • GOP vs dems
        I am a conservative Republican and I am certainly NOT rich. I work for my money, pay taxes and ALL of my health care cost and anything that goes to my retirement comes from me and me alone. Enough of the free ride on the backs of tax paying Hoosiers.
        As for the dems hiding out in Illinois, they are just like a bunch of little kids who stomp their feet and hide in the bedroom when they don't get their way. Let them stay in Illinois for the next two years. In the private sector, their employment would have been terminated 3 days ago!
      • We the people of Indiana
        Republican lawmakers represent 60 percent of Indiana, the other 40 percent of us are being well represented by our democratic representatives, who are refusing to let the unwanted conservative agenda of the GOP be forced on us all. The republican majority in the state of Indiana is not interested in finding bi partisan solutions to our problems that work for ALL of it's citizens, they are simply concerned with getting enough democrats to show up and sit quietly in their seats so that they can ram their policies down everyone's throats. It is they who are not doing their jobs, since their job is to thoroughly consider the effect of their policies on every citizen and business in our state, not just the ones in Indianapolis, or who own the companies the rest of us have to work for.
        Until the GOP recognizes the error of their ways, I hope these men and women stay exactly where they are.
        • Grow-Up
          It's with sadness that I even make comment on the actions the Indiana democratic party. They just don't get it! We the People of the State of Indiana, not We the Labor Unions. These elected representative have neglected their duties and violated the trust of all Indiana citizens. It is my hope that a sense of honor and respect for our Country and State return and these lost souls get back to the peoples business. God Bless America.
          • gop
            if the gop wins there will be no middle class just the republicans(rich) AND THE POOR. What they are looking for. One world government
          • Thumbs Up!
            Go Bauer Go! Thank You for all you're doing to prevent the destruction of working-class rights. Anything you need just let us know.
          • People vs Corporations
            People on the right are saying that Dems are doing this unions support them financially and in the voting booth. How is that different than the Republicans siding again and again with big business and the wealthy, providing tax cuts for the richest people and corporations who donate to their campaigns. The SCOTUS says that corporations are "people" who can participate in the election process, while Republicans are trying to destroy unions because they do the same thing. Are you ready to vote out every Republican who took corporate campaign contributions? I do agree, however, that we must revisit the benefits of public employees, but that is a far different thing than destroying unions wholesale like this.
          • Thanks to our Reps
            I personally would like to thank these 37 Democrats for standing up to a bulldozer mentality in the Republican controlled house. These reps ARE doing this for the working class. Just watch the news or drive to the Indiana statehouse and see all the people there protesting what the Republicans are trying to do.

            These reps ARE doing the job we elected them to do, whether they meet in the statehouse, or hold an off-sight meeting, such as they are now. We thank them for doing that.

            And in case you have forgotten, the republican reps held a walk out back in 2001. If it was OK for them to do, then it should be OK for anyone, unless the Republicans have special rules that only apply to them. Read your history folks!

            The unions represent the working class, the Republicans are supported & controlled by the big corporations. Take a look at who donates to support the RNC, mostly corporations, so they can get their agenda passed.

            As for staying in Illinois, they chose well, a nearby city, in a state run by a Democrat governor, who won't abide by mitch Daniels wishes to strong-arm them into a vote without listening to the opposition.

            I do not believe it is illegal for the representatives to hold a caucus out of state, is it? And they are paying for their stay, like anyone else does, so let them work in peace.
            • Waste of time and money
              These Reps. are not doing this for the "working people" they are doing it to support their tax payer supported, union benefits, and huge donations the unions make to the democratic party. Those of us that really work, and can not bail on the job to protest, or not do the job we were hired to do, pay our fair share of benefits, retirement, and insurance. Time for the free ride to end. Vote them ALL our that left the state.
              • Protests
                It may be time for the Governor to dispatch the state police to Illinois. However, their purpose should be to make sure that Bauer and his comrades stay there!

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              1. So as I read this the one question that continues to come to me to ask is. Didn't Indiana only have a couple of exchanges for people to opt into which were very high because we really didn't want to expect the plan. So was this study done during that time and if so then I can understand these numbers. I also understand that we have now opened up for more options for hoosiers to choose from. Please correct if I'm wrong and if I'm not why was this not part of the story so that true overview could be taken away and not just parts of it to continue this negative tone against the ACA. I look forward to the clarity.

              2. It's really very simple. All forms of transportation are subsidized. All of them. Your tax money already goes toward every single form of transportation in the state. It is not a bad thing to put tax money toward mass transit. The state spends over 1,000,000,000 (yes billion) on roadway expansions and maintenance every single year. If you want to cry foul over anything cry foul over the overbuilding of highways which only serve people who can afford their own automobile.

              3. So instead of subsidizing a project with a market-driven scope, you suggest we subsidize a project that is way out of line with anything that can be economically sustainable just so we can have a better-looking skyline?

              4. Downtowner, if Cummins isn't getting expedited permitting and tax breaks to "do what they do", then I'd be happy with letting the market decide. But that isn't the case, is it?

              5. Patty, this commuter line provides a way for workers (willing to work lower wages) to get from Marion county to Hamilton county. These people are running your restaurants, hotels, hospitals, and retail stores. I don't see a lot of residents of Carmel working these jobs.