Indiana Democrats flee to Illinois, block labor bill
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana House Democrats who fled to Illinois like their counterparts in the Wisconsin Senate say they’ll continue their boycott until Republicans assure them they won’t debate public education and anti-union measures the Democrats oppose.
The House Democrats won a small victory on Tuesday when their absence at least temporarily blocked a GOP-backed labor bill. Republicans, who control the House, planned to try again Wednesday morning to resume business.
In a statement Tuesday night, the Democratic caucus said members were in Urbana, Ill., “for the immediate future” to continue reviewing Republican proposals on public education changes and the right-to-work bill 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.”
Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said he wouldn’t negotiate with legislators who hadn’t shown up to do their jobs.
“To negotiate, first you have to have discussions with people,” Bosma said. “We’ve not seen anyone, they’ve been completely absent, no one’s reached out.”
Three of 40 House Democrats were in the chamber when Bosma tried repeatedly to convene it Tuesday, leaving the chamber short of the two-thirds needed for a quorum. The move meant that the right-to-work legislation missed a procedural deadline for further consideration. However, Republicans could find other ways to revive it before the legislative session ends in late April.
Wisconsin’s Senate hasn’t been able to take up a much bolder measure that would strip nearly all public employees’ bargaining rights since that chamber’s Democrats left the state Thursday.
Indiana has no legislative deadlines Wednesday, but a continuing boycott by Democrats could raise tensions in the House by upsetting the plans of Republicans to advance a new two-year state budget plan to the Senate by Friday.
Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels told reporters he would not use state troopers to compel Democratic legislators to return and that he trusted they would soon be back. Daniels had urged GOP legislators not to act on the right-to-work bill this year, saying he was worried that could derail other legislative plans.
“I don’t attempt to dictate the agenda. I’m not in a position to, really,” Daniels said. “I thought there was a better time and place to have this very important and legitimate issue.“