Indiana Speaker: Democrats’ Walkout Clinched Education Reform

Posted: May 27, 2011 8:00 AM

This post was authored by Kyle Olson.

House Democrats in Indiana thought they were being clever by walking out on the legislative session in February, stealing a page out of the Wisconsin Democrats’ playbook.  Instead of having a debate on the serious issues of education reform, they decided to skip town to Urbana, Illinois and enjoy a break.

A break, by the way, that was completely paid for by labor unions.

According to Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma, the stunt actually backfired.

Bosma, in an interview with EAGtv and the Hoosier Report Card, revealed that some Republicans were wavering over the bold reforms, but when the Democrats refused to debate and skipped town, the GOP united and moved forward with its agenda.

“Our Democratic colleagues saw what was going to happen in the House, they knew that I was the co-author or author of a number of these bills. 

“While they left the state for Urbana for 35 days, a record by the way in the nation’s history, not just Indiana’s, the guise was over labor issues, construction issues, collective bargaining issues for state employees. But the real fact of the matter is they knew these critical education reforms were going to pass despite the opposition of their key ally, the Indiana State Teachers Association. That is the primary reason they left the state.

“That actually helped my team … to get (reforms) through the House. The long absence of the Democrats and the protests that happened during that time … actually assured the passage of these measures as our team steeled on these issues.

“I think we would have been three or four votes short if the Democrats had stayed and just debated them throughout the time. So it was actually to our advantage -  frustrating, difficult, but to our advantage.”

The only compromise was phasing in the student voucher program over three years.

So the Indiana State Teachers Association and House Democrats may have thought they were being clever, but they actually did themselves considerable damage.

That should serve as a word of caution for those that think they can hijack the legislative process.  Stay and fight, or risk losing it all.