Indiana House adjourns amid GOP, Dems stalemate

AP News
Posted: Feb 24, 2011 6:29 PM
Indiana House adjourns amid GOP, Dems stalemate

With Democrats still in Illinois and neither party showing signs of compromise Thursday, the Republican leader of the Indiana House shut down the chamber and said it would remain closed until at least Monday.

The House Democrats' leader said he wasn't sure whether they would return then. The two parties remain in a stand-off over the Republican agenda, which Democrats say is an attack on the middle class. Republicans have refused to drop any of their bills, and Democrats say they won't come back until the GOP agrees to sit down and talk about agenda items.

"Nothing's really changed," said House Minority Leader Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend. He was at a hotel in Urbana, Ill., where most House Democrats have been holed up since they left Tuesday.

The Democrats have already succeeded in killing a so-called "right-to-work" bill that would have made it illegal to make union membership a condition of employment. It died after a deadline for action passed Tuesday.

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said Thursday that his first order of business when Democrats return will be extending legislative deadlines so remaining bills _ including the state budget _ will survive and merely be delayed.

Bauer said the state budget has been late before because lawmakers were hashing out details, but he expected the new, two-year state spending plan to be in place by the July 1 deadline.

Republicans hold 60 seats in the 100-member Indiana House, where 67 members must be present to conduct business. One Democrat, Rep. Steve Stemler, D-Jeffersonville, decided not to participate in the boycott _ leaving Republicans half a dozen members short. Republicans were privately speculating on which Democrats might be willing to return, though Bosma said there was no organized effort to try to break their ranks.

Democrats said they remain strong as a group. Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, who had new blue jeans shipped to her in Illinois because she was running out of clothes, said Republicans wouldn't be able to convince individuals to go against the pack.

"That's not going to happen," said Reardon, who lives in Hammond. "We won't let them pick us off. We have a very, very strong caucus that's dedicated to the cause."

Rep. Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, said Democrats feel passionately about fighting the Republican proposals.

"I have to give thanks to the majority party," Pelath said. "They've managed to find the things that keep everybody together."

But Senate Minority Leader Vi Simpson, D-Bloomington, predicted it will be difficult to keep the boycott going as political pressure mounts. House members, who are not collecting their pay while they are in Illinois, will read their local newspaper editorials and hear from angry constituents.

"There will be people in his own caucus who will start to say, `I've got to go back,'" she said of Bauer's group. "What you have to do as a leader is remind everybody why you're there. The House Democrats who are in Illinois are there because they believe in their hearts this was the right thing to do. They'll know when it's time to come back."

Pressure continued Thursday from union protestors at the Indiana Statehouse even though the right-to-work bill was dead. Bosma talked to dozens of union members in a hallway, reassuring them of the bill's demise. But Teamsters member Jason Pedroza of Lake Station said Bosma rubbed them the wrong way by publicly signing _ while union members watched Wednesday _ a bill to reduce unemployment benefits.

"He did that right in front of us, knowing we were standing there," Pedroza said. "He understands our issues but doesn't bother to deal with them in our favor."

Protestors also gathered outside the Democrats' hotel in Urbana. About a dozen tea party activists from eastern Illinois stood in a cold wind, holding signs telling the Indiana Democrats they weren't welcome, while about 20 people _ mostly students from the nearby University of Illinois _ held up signs supporting them.

While neither Democrats nor Republicans budged Thursday, many hoped the frustration and anger among leaders would subside. Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels said he would call lawmakers into session "from now to New Year's" if needed but he hoped that wouldn't be necessary.

"We can just get on with business, and that is what I would appeal to them to do," Daniels said.


Associated Press writer David Mercer in Urbana, Ill., contributed to this report.