Republicans announced early today that the Indiana House of Representatives would adjourn until Monday, reacting to statements by Democrats who left the state earlier this week that they would not return before week's end.
House Democrats did not come to work on Tuesday and fled to Illinois, following committee passage of a so-called "Right to Work" (RTW) bill on Monday — a bill that would strip Indiana unions of their collective bargaining power and has drawn thousands of protesters to the Statehouse all week.
The move by Democrats effectively killed 23 bills, including RTW, because of a House rule that says bills leaving committee must be accepted by the full House within 24 hours. A quorum of 67 members must be present for a bill to be accepted — a quorum not possible with nearly all 40 House Democrats hunkered down out-of-state.
Republicans yesterday said they would not try to re-introduce RTW this session, but put forth a bill that would create a summer committee to further study the issue.
House Democrats issued a list on Tuesday evening of 11 bills they said were troubling, and declared this morning that they would not be back this week. According to the current timetable, Friday is the deadline for all House bills — including the budget — to receive a vote.
However, the House Rules Committee approved a motion to extend the Friday deadline, thereby saving dozens of bills and the state budget. House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) said it would be the first item on the agenda once enough House Democrats returned for a quorum.
"The speaker has made it known he is extending the deadline so the House Democrats cannot escape the democratic process," said Tory Flynn, Bosma's spokesperson.
Republicans also argued that the roughly 140 amendments requested by Democrats for the state budget would cost taxpayers an extra $427 million.
In an afternoon conference call, Minority Leader B. Patrick Bauer (D-South Bend), speaking from Urbana, Ill., said that "nothing has changed" since yesterday, and that it was a "pretty good assumption" Democrats would not still return on Monday.
"We've had to do this once before and we stayed much longer than we have so far," he said.
Democrats have been criticized for overreaching now that Republicans have agreed to drop RTW. But Bauer has softened his tone over the last two days, stating repeatedly that his caucus does not expect all 11 problem bills to be killed.
Bauer would not say if there was a short list of concessions Democrats would accept. However he has pointed repeatedly to the importance of stopping legislation that would expand charter schools, and labor bills that would preclude prevailing wage standards and take away employees' right to join a union by secret ballot.
Responding to criticisms that the Democrats' absence was costing tax payers thousands each day, Bauer noted that House Democrats had unanimously agreed to repay or give to charity their per diem from the time they were out of state. He also argued that tax revenues from wages and jobs saved by the Democrats' maneuvers would more than repay money lost now.
"It's a fairly low cost to save democracy as we know it," he added.