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Judge blocks fines for House members

A Marion County judge Thursday blocked the collection of fines from three House Democrats.

House Republicans issued fines of $1,000 each to missing House Democrats Wednesday and Thursday.

GOP House Speaker Brian Bosma ordered that the fines be taken out of expense money owed to House Democrats. But Marion County Judge David Dreyer issued a temporary restraining order preventing Bosma, the House clerk or State Auditor Tim Berry from seizing, withholding or forfeiting earned wages to satisfy the fines.

Thursday’s court order involves only three specific Democrats – Reps. Bill Crawford, D-Indianapolis, Shelli VanDenburgh, D-Crown Point, and Vanessa Summers, D-Indianapolis. But more Democrats could join the case today.

Fort Wayne attorney Mark GiaQuinta sought the restraining order.

It’s consistent with a ruling the same judge issued in December regarding the collection of fines from last year’s five-week walkout. He said then that such reductions from pay “can only be affected through the courts and the laws involving employee compensation.”

The temporary restraining order has now been joined to that case, which is being appealed.

A court hearing has been set for Jan. 27 for a preliminary injunction – a stronger order.

“The order is unfortunate and is a textbook example of why we have separate branches of government and why courts should not allow the judicial system to be used as a legislative tactic during the heat of the session,” Attorney General Greg Zoeller said.