By Megan Banta
After a five-week long stay
in Urbana, Ill., Indiana House Democrats returned to the Statehouse Monday
afternoon ready to return to work.
The House went into session
around 5 p.m., and legislators picked up with a calendar that has not changed
since Feb. 22, the day that Democrats left Indiana.
House Speaker Brian Bosma,
R-Indianapolis, cited public pressure and concessions on a few key bills as the
reason that Democrats decided to return. Democrats, meanwhile, declared
"We're coming back after
softening the radical agenda. ... We won a battle, but we recognize the war goes
on," said House Minority Leader Pat Bauer, D-South Bend.
"There's still going to be
attacks on school children and the schools they learn in. There's still going
to be attacks on working people. Hoosiers, though, had a time-out, and they
needed that time-out to learn about these bills."
Republicans have made
several concessions on contended legislation, including right to work, the private
school voucher bill and House Bill 1216, which deals with project labor
agreements, in order to draw Democrats back.
The right to work bill,
Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said, is dead, and will go
to a summer study committee.
The voucher bill is still
likely to go through, but Republicans said they will lower enrollment caps from
10,000 to 7,500 in the first year, and from 20,000 to 15,000 in the second
year, with no caps whatsoever in the third year and beyond.
House Bill 1216, which
would have originally eliminated agreements that favor union contractors on
public works projects, now leaves those agreements in place for projects passed
by public referendum.
The bill also would have
changed the point at which the common construction wage applies from government
construction jobs worth less than $150,000 to those worth less than $1 million.
After negotiations, Republicans have agreed to change that point to $250,000
starting in 2012 and $350,000 after that.
Though Democrats have returned
now that these concessions have been made, Bosma and other Republicans continue
to insist that negotiations could have gone much smoother if Democrats had
remained in the Statehouse.
"We could have gotten to
this place much more quickly – in a matter of days or hours, if everyone
had been in the building, I think. I think folks didn't believe that our
earlier statement, that the calendar was the calendar would stick, and it has.
We've been resolved in that," Bosma said
Bosma also said that there
are no plans to waive the fines imposed on Democrats, which now total more than
$3,000. Republicans see the fines as a reasonable consequence for the boycott.
"Those fines were worth
it," Bauer said
Bauer said that the fines
are much less than the penalties that unemployed Hoosiers will face due to
another Republican-backed bill that overhauls the state's bankrupt unemployment
insurance fund, and slashes benefits in the process.
"They're half as much as
what unemployed Hoosier lost to their bill that we weren't able to stop," Bauer
The above is one of an ongoing series of reports from the Indiana Statehouse by students at the Franklin College Pulliam School of Journalism.