While House Democrats remain in Illinois for what will be the fourth week,

House and the Senate Republicans stay busy at the state capitol.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, and House Speaker Brian

Bosma, R-Indianapolis, announced Thursday that House and Senate Republicans

will work together to salvage this year's legislative session.

Republican leaders doubt that the Democrats will return from Urbana, Ill.

any time soon and Minority Leader Pat Bauer confirmed those doubts in a

conference call with reporters.

Bosma said that he will be increasing the imposed fine for missing Democrats

from $250 per day to $350. His decision to increase the cost of fines received

strong opposing emotions from Democrats.

"We don't see the welcome mat there, with a hundred dollars added to our

fine. It's not a warm, inviting place," Bauer said.

Bosma and Long said the Senate and the House will be working together to

move forward in this legislative session until Democrats return.

"There will be three caucuses working in the Statehouse for the people of

Indiana, doing the job they were elected to do, respecting the people who

elected them," Long said.

House Republicans will be allowed to sit in on Senate committee hearings,

view the proceedings, possibly ask questions, and participate in any other way

that does not violate Senate committee rules.

Bosma and Long said they are also considering enacting anti-bolting

legislation that will address this issue for the future.

Bauer criticized the consideration of such legislation.

"That is to distract from the issues before us. The issues before are their

attack on public education and their attack on the working people," Bauer said.

Bosma also said the chamber shutdown has prompted Republicans to think about

proposing laws that would allow Hoosiers to recall missing lawmakers.

With Democrats gone, the Republican members of the House Rules Committee

extended the deadline for the chamber to pass bills and send them over to the

Senate until March 31.

In a letter that sparked the Republican move, Bauer said the Democrats would

return if Republicans would lower caps on the number of students able to use a

private school voucher program that Republicans have proposed, and if

Republicans agreed to kill a labor bill by sending it to a summer study

committee.

Bosma agreed to caps on the vouchers systems, and said they were already

working to lower those caps, but is not willing to take off the table the bill

that would end project labor agreements, which favor union workers on public

works projects.

Public pressure has led Republicans to consider a recall procedure, Bosma

said. One cannot be enacted until is passes the House, which cannot happen

until Democrats end their boycott.

He said there are other options, too, such as changing the two-thirds quorum

requirement which would take a constitutional amendment.

Bauer said those possibilities are distractions.

A gay marriage ban was the topic of emotional testimony Wednesday during a

Senate Judiciary Committee.

Indianapolis-based pharmaceutical maker Eli Lilly and Co. and Columbus-based

engine maker Cummins, Inc. said a constitutional ban of both gay marriages and

civil unions or anything else resembling a legal recognition of a same-sex

couple's relationship could interfere with their ability to offer domestic

partner benefits. Therefore, they said, Indiana companies might not attract

qualified homosexual candidates.

The committee took hours of testimony, but delayed a vote until next week.

The measure's passage is expected because the Senate has approved the same ban

several times in recent years.

A Senate committee also made several changes to a bill that would expand the

number of state charter schools.

The committee rid a provision that would have diverted some transportation

dollars from traditional public schools to charter schools out of House Bill

1002, a move likely to alleviate some of those districts' concerns that the

bill would pack a financial blow.

More provisions include requiring that 75 percent of teachers at charter

schools be licensed, and requiring that part-time teachers have a bachelor's

degree in the subject area they teach with a grade point average of 3.0.

-- Franklin College Statehouse Bureau reporters Megan Banta, Samm Quinn,

Suzannah Couch and Sarah Seward contributed to this report.

The above is one of an ongoing series of reports from the Indiana Statehouse by students at the Franklin College Pulliam School of Journalism.

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