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Walkout facts
Answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the ongoing Democratic walkout.
Are House Democrats continuing to be paid?
House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said he has no administrative authority to suspend pay or per diem (about $150 a day). But the House as a body can fine the missing members.
Are taxpayers footing the bill for their stay in Illinois?
Members may be using their per diem for personal expenses, but the Indiana Democratic Party is covering lodging and the use of a conference room.
What bills are in jeopardy? What are the key deadlines?
Each bill must receive three readings. This evening is the second reading deadline at which point a bill can be amended. Friday evening is the third reading deadline at which point a bill must be passed or defeated by the full House. There are about 25 bills on each calendar. Key pieces of legislation that could die include the state budget and a public voucher program. The ideas can be resurrected later in the session in other bills.
Why have three Democrats remained behind?
Two of the members – Rep. Vanessa Summers, D-Indianapolis, and Rep. Terri Austin, D-Anderson – have remained for procedural reasons. They are needed to ensure Republicans don't try to act without a quorum. A third member, Rep. Steve Stemler, D-Jeffersonville, is at odds with the House Democratic caucus this year because Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma appointed him chairman of a committee. He decided to stay on the job.
Associated Press
A tea party demonstrator waves to passing drivers outside the Comfort Suites in Urbana, Ill., on Thursday.

Rhetoric rises on walkout

– The Indiana House has adjourned until Monday and House Democrat Minority Leader Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, said it's a "pretty good assumption" the House Democrat caucus will not be back at work that day.

"Nothing has really changed – just an attempt to continue these assaults," he said via phone from Urbana, Illinois.

He and dozens of other House Democrats have been holed up there since Tuesday. Initially the fight was over a controversial labor bill that has since been killed. Now they are pointing to other bills they consider to be anti-worker and anti-education.

House Republicans have continued to show up but have been unable to conduct business because they can't reach a quorum of 67 without their counterparts.

What happened Wednesday

A strident Gov. Mitch Daniels flayed House Democrats on Wednesday as a standoff over labor and education strife dragged into a third day and threatened to derail the state budget today.

"We will not be bullied or blackmailed out of pursuing the agenda we laid in front of the people of Indiana," he said. "That agenda is going to get voted on if it takes special sessions from now until New Year's."

Despite the harsh words, Democrats who fled to Illinois seemed no closer to returning to the Statehouse. The House needs 67 members to conduct business, and Republicans have only 60.

Speaking via teleconference, Bauer said his members are doing their job representing constituents who have expressed opposition to the measures.

"We could just sit there and collect our per diem and punch in and be good little lambs led to the slaughter," he said. "But we care. This is not easy."

The verbal sparring came with a backdrop of steady chanting, singing and civil disobedience by thousands of union protesters who have become fixtures at the Statehouse this week.

National media also descended on Indiana as the face-off follows a similar move by Wisconsin Senate Democrats.

If Indiana House Democrats continue the boycott, about 25 bills on the calendar could die tonight, including the state's proposed two-year budget and a school voucher bill.

"Tomorrow is when there are real consequences for the people of the state of Indiana," Bosma said.

Later in the day, Bosma said there was a procedural maneuver that could be used to push back the deadlines if the House Democrats return Monday.

On Tuesday night, 23 bills died – including the controversial right-to-work measure that started the fracas Monday. It would prohibit employees from being required to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment.

And Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, on Wednesday quashed the resurrection of the issue later in the session. Instead, he said the Senate and Daniels support a study committee on the complicated issue.

"There's so many other heavy, difficult, complex issues we have to deal with this year that to throw that on top of them, as volatile as we knew it would be, I think was a mistake," Long said.

He did note, however, that nothing justifies the House Democratic walkout.

"No matter our differences between Republicans and Democrats, we are elected to do a job, and that job is to have our fannies in our seats, working hard, dealing with the issues that are important to the people of this state," Long said.

But Democrats said it's about more than the right-to-work measure; they perceive a number of bills this session to be anti-education and anti-worker. Those include, Democrats say, attempts to weaken collective bargaining for teachers, provide state-paid vouchers for private schools, cut unemployment benefits and more.

Bauer was cagey about what exactly would bring his members back to the Statehouse.

And Daniels was adamant that he would not take a charter school expansion or voucher bill off the table.

"It is not happening. It is not happening," Daniels said, affirming he would not negotiate with those who walk off the job and take their taxpayer check with them.

In fact, the governor went so far as to say that the proposed education changes alone are enough to bring lawmakers back for a special session.

Bosma seemed to become more resolute as the day wore on. He also lost patience with the protesters outside the chamber who chanted even during the House prayer and Pledge of Allegiance.

He also admonished those in the public House gallery not to be vocal. When they started yelling and singing, he closed the gallery for the rest of the day.

"We have a voice. We will be voting you out. This is our house," one protester yelled.

Later, Bosma said there was a spitting incident with a demonstrator, but he declined to elaborate.

"It's gone from an appropriate exercise of First Amendment rights to bullying and intimidation," he said. "It will not deter House Republicans."

nkelly@jg.net

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