The minority party has few tools available when it comes to blocking what it thinks is unpopular or ill-conceived legislation. But Indiana House Democrats used one of them this week to kill legislation that does nothing to improve the states economic climate.
Refusing to convene for a session that would have advanced controversial bills is a move within the Democratic caucus right and responsibility, if members believe these proposed bills are contrary to their constituents best interests.
The so-called right-to-work bill was inserted into the legislative agenda against even Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels wishes. And the Democrats tactics have worked on this legislation. Daniels and Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, have rightly stopped the anti-labor bill for this session. Such legislation has long been on the wish list of business interests, but it received no debate before the last election, and it deserves a thorough one.
The education reform agenda pushed by the House Republicans – and endorsed by the governor – is a thinly disguised effort to privatize public education.
Daniels isnt conceding on any of the education bills. The voucher bill is his priority, he told reporters Wednesday. The bills would authorize not only vouchers but also an expansion of charter schools and a hand-over of public schools to turnaround school operators. Tax money would flow to for-profit companies and private and parochial schools at the expense of public education, with spending accountability and transparency diminished.
House Democrats find it hard to believe that these proposals affecting so many are being advanced in the name of reform, according to a Democratic caucus news release. In point of fact, they are anti-child and anti-worker, and there needs to be sufficient time for the people of this state to examine the length and depth of what is being attempted here.
Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, said he believed the caucus actions are serving as a wake-up call.
People are busy, and they arent real sure how the process works, he said in a call Wednesday from Urbana, Ill., where the Democratic caucus is staying to deny Republicans the 67-member quorum they need to proceed. They depend on us to know the legislation – and its hard to keep up with everything. This is turning some heads, and people are starting to look at the bills.
The aggressive education agenda demands the same scrutiny as the right-to-work bill. If House Democrats have prompted a closer examination of bills that will harm Indianas public schools and bring no benefits to Indiana students, they have served their constituents well.