As the Statehouse
walkout enters into its second full week, the question is becoming: "How soon
will they be back?"
For those of you not
fully familiar with the details, Indiana House Democrats are protesting the
Republican push of "right to work" legislation
to work" legislation. Under "right-to-work," an individual cannot be compelled to pay union
dues or fees as a condition of their employment. Proponents say "right to work" will help create jobs and
make Indiana more competitive with other states. Opponents call it a race to the bottom and the "right to
work for fewer wages." Last year, Democrats left the state and relocated to Illinois
for 45 days. In response,
Republicans passed an anti-bolting statute which could allow for fines of up to
$1,000 per day if a lawmaker denies a quorum for more than three days.
House Speaker Brian Bosma
Speaker Brian Bosmahasn't said when he would start levying fines, but has
indicated that he is willing to do so if the Democrats don't come back. Democrats say the public needs more
time to understand the issue and they held hearing this past weekend in Ft.
Wayne and Evansville.
As an observer of
this process, I'm focused on the question: "How soon will they be back?"
We have already seen
some cracks in the Democrats united front. Two state lawmakers have recently "come over the wall," so
to speak. Rep. Ed DeLaney of Indianapolis and Dale Grubb of Covington. Both oppose "right to work" but think
the best way to fight it is on the floor of the House and not held up in
caucus. Other members who have
been on the floor are Democratic Reps. Steve Stemler of Jeffersonville, Peggy
Welsh of Bloomington, and Dave Cheatham of North Vernon. That makes five Democrats who
have broken ranks. If two more Democrats
leave the caucus that will make for 67 members on the floor and a quorum can be
held. More important than
that is the fact during his most recent news conference, House Minority Leader Pat Bauer
Minority Leader Pat Baueradmitted that Democrats can't stay gone indefinitely. So like I said, "How soon will they be
The problem with this
walkout is that Democrats did this last year and the sequels are never as good
as the original.The protest
crowds are smaller and the Democratic strategy doesn't seem as focused. For example, shortly after Governor
Daniels rescinded the limits on Statehouse access, Democrats could have declared
victory and marched on the House floor emboldened and Republicans would have
been a little gun shy. Instead,
the Democrats stayed behind closed doors and let the perfect media opportunity
get away from them.
There is some
speculation that Democrats could be back as soon as this week once they have
completed their hearings. There is
also a school of thought that some will return shortly after the first set of
$1,000 fines are levied. Either
way, they will be back, right to work will pass, and then everyone will ask
what was the point of holding out?