Perspectives in Education: John Krull


The opening day of the 2012 Indiana

General Assembly

started with a surrender and then

veered to a slowdown.

Back to business as usual.

The surrender came Tuesday morning, less than three hours before the Indiana

House of Representatives and Senate were set to gavel themselves into action.

The new

Statehouse security measures

announced on Dec. 30 had drawn blistering

criticism from Democrats, organized labor, open government advocates and, well,

frankly just about everyone but the people who drew the rules up. Those

measures would have limited the number of people in the people's house to 3,000

people at a time, including the 1,700 state employees who work there.

Last year's labor rallies pulled in more than 1,300 people on slow days.

Democrats and labor saw the restrictions as a Republican

attempt to discourage dissent on the controversial right-to-work

measure the GOP wants to push through this legislative session. That bill

would make it illegal for employers to require workers to pay fees to a union

as a condition of employment. A similar measure last year prompted

massive demonstrations and a five-week-long walkout by House




Mitch Daniels

told me that the new security rules and the right-to-work

battle were "separate issues," but he pulled the plug on them anyway and

announced that things were going back to the way they were in a late-morning

press conference.

That way, he said, "there won't have been a needless argument."

Daniels' distinction between right to work and ditching the new security rules

didn't stop Democrats from claiming victory and momentum almost immediately.

When Rep. John Day, D-Indianapolis, heard that the restrictions had been

lifted, he almost shouted.

"The First Amendment lives. James Madison would be proud," he said.

That euphoria carried into the early part of the afternoon.

Outside the Statehouse, protestors from labor unions around the state lifted

signs that said, among other things, "America is a union" and "Storm the

castle," as motorists driving by the Statehouse honked their horns or shook

their fists, depending upon which side of the right-to-work dispute they


The high spirits faded as the afternoon progressed.

The House was supposed to go in to session at 1:30 p.m. That time came and

went. So did 2 p.m. And 2:30 p.m.And 3:00 p.m.

As the day dragged on, the crowds drifted away. Getting fired up to storm

the castle is one thing. Staying excited while you're watching paint dry

is another.

Finally, at 3:30 p.m., Democratic leader Rep.

Pat Bauer

, D-South Bend, held a press conference. He stood at a

lectern with 33 Democrats behind him.

Bauer raised objections to the way Republicans were trying to "ram" right to

work through the legislature, but didn't say whether he and his fellow

Democrats would return to the floor of the House or whether they would stay

away again.


Speaker Brian Bosma

, R-Indianapolis, reacted to

the Democrats' absence from the floor of the chamber with predictable, if

somewhat synthetic outrage. He decried the other party's tactics and said

that he couldn't see a way that right to work would be taken off the table.

He and Bauer traded barbs in their dueling press conferences with the sort of

dispirited energy of aging rock stars who have been on

the road way too long. Another opening, another show.

About the only interesting thing that came of their skirmishing was a proposal

Bauer made at the press conference.

He said that Bosma and Republicans should hold

hearings around the state about right to work to see where the public stands on

the issue. He and other Democrats cited a Ball State University poll on

the issue that showed that 48 percent of the Hoosiers surveyed didn't even

understand what right to work is.

If Bosma would agree to hold those hearings, Bauer

hinted – but only hinted – that Democrats might return to the


After Bauer finished the press conference, I asked several Democrats if the

hearings-around-the-state suggestion was a trial balloon. They all said

it was.

One of them said, laughing, "Sometimes those Hail Mary passes do connect."

He paused.

"It better, because that's about all we have left," he said.

John Krull is

executive editor of The Statehouse File, director of Franklin College's Pulliam

School of Journalism and host of No Limits, WFYI 90.1 FM Indianapolis.


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