INDIANAPOLIS – House Republicans issued $1,000 fines against boycotting Democrats on Wednesday, but it’s unclear whether they will ever get the money.
The issue is part of a legal battle over whether GOP House Speaker Brian Bosma can unilaterally deduct the fines from expense checks owed to House Democrats.
The fines were assessed Wednesday against 33 of the 40 members of the Democratic caucus. Five others were present and two were given excused absences by Bosma. He made the order despite losing a related court ruling on the issue in December.
Marion County Judge David Dreyer refused to dismiss a case brought by a House Democrat in which Bosma claimed courts had no jurisdiction on the collection of fines issued during last year’s five-week walkout.
Dreyer ruled that such reductions from pay can only be affected through the courts, and the laws involving employee compensation.
That case is being appealed.
But Bosma said Wednesday he would not back down from taking the fine money since there was no binding order against doing so.
House Democrats later in the day tasked Fort Wayne attorney Mark GiaQuinta – who argued the first case – to file in court to block the move. Both sides were awaiting word on a temporary restraining order late Wednesday night.
The legislative process is often compared to making sausage,’ and courts should stay out while the blades are moving, argued Attorney General Greg Zoeller, who argued against the motion in court Wednesday. Under the separation of powers, this disagreement is an internal dispute for the legislative branch to resolve, not the judicial branch.
House Democratic Leader Patrick Bauer said his caucus will fight the collection of the fines but sometimes you have to endure pain to serve the public.
Bosma appeared exasperated at Democrats’ continuation of stall tactics over the controversial right-to-work labor bill.
Supporters claim the measure will bring jobs to the state while opponents contend it will weaken unions and lower wages.
Their job is to get here and do the work that’s before all of us – not dictate the agenda, not dictate the schedule, not make demands like this is some sort of labor negotiation which is what they treat it as and then go on strike when they don’t get their way, Bosma said.
So far this session, House Democrats have missed five session days in which the House could not convene due to a lack of a quorum. Republicans have 60 members, but 67 are needed to conduct business.
Meanwhile, the right-to-work bill has been sitting on the calendar unmoved in the Senate, where both sides are cooperating.
That could change today.
The political theater was high Wednesday – starting with House Democrats staging a public caucus in the Statehouse rotunda. Union supporters chanted and clapped while they surrounded the Democrats in the rotunda.
House Democrats had agreed to vote Tuesday on amendments but stayed out after a legal opinion surfaced calling into question their key amendment – a statewide referendum on the bill.
Rep. Win Moses, D-Fort Wayne, asked for that amendment and said Democrats are working on legal research to see if there is a way to make a statewide public vote on the matter constitutional.
He pointed to local referenda on building projects and other issues and said there should be a way to allow the public’s voice to be heard.
Republicans claim Democrats are using the constitutionality issue to break a promise to return to work.