Democrats boycott as right-to-work bill becomes eligible for vote

By Samm Quinn
The Statehouse File

INDIANAPOLIS – One day after Democrats walked out of the Indiana House of Representatives frustrated again over right to work, they boycotted the chamber again Tuesday, blocking a vote on the legislation as well as work on dozens of bills that aren’t related to the controversial issue.

Democrats are boycotting because they say House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, didn’t allow them to offer more amendments Monday to the divisive right-to-work bill. Bosma contends that he gave Democrats plenty of time to offer their proposals.

Democrats offered seven amendments Monday, all of which were defeated by Republicans, who control the House. One amendment would have sent right-to-work to a statewide vote. The House passed two GOP-sponsored amendments.

Minutes after Republicans defeated the referendum amendment, Bosma slammed the gavel, making the bill eligible to be voted on Tuesday. He said he made the move after seeing no other Democrats ready to offer additional amendments.

“I reviewed the tape a couple of times last night and I clearly asked if there were any more motions to amend and two hands went up by people who did not have motions to amend filed,” he said. “I gave it an extraordinarily long pause before I gaveled it in to engrossment.”

Bosma said he won’t allow Democrats to offer any more amendments, although he does have the authority to do so.

“It wouldn’t be the right thing at this point,” he said. “They had ample chance last night; I think it was very fair.”

Bosma planned to try to reconvene the House Tuesday afternoon. Bosma said he hoped Democrats would return to finish work on bills that still need to be amended and bills, including right to work, that are eligible for a full House vote.

When Democrats stayed out of their seats Tuesday afternoon, the Republican members again voted to impose $1,000 per day fines on them.

Bosma said he has had no communication with the missing members of the minority party or its leadership since they walked out Monday night.

He said the House will meet at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday and start with bills that are available for amendments, before moving onto final House passage on bills such as right to work.

“I’m still counting on people to wake up and get in here and do what they were hired to do,” he said. “At some point people have to say ‘I was hired to do this. I’m going to show up.’ Maybe I’m placing the bar too high.”

“I’m just trying to conduct business as normal and unable to do so.”

House Minority Leader Pat Bauer, D-South Bend, said Democrats stayed away from the chamber Tuesday because they needed more time to study the bill.

“I think even now a pretty significant number of people are confused by the words right to work,” he said.

Bauer said Democrats are prepared to return to the House Wednesday and they did not intend to stop a final House vote on right-to-work unless “an ill wind blows” between Tuesday evening and Wednesday afternoon.

But “I’m not a forecaster of the weather or legislature,” he said.

Samm Quinn is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

The above story is a corrected version.

Due to an error by The Statehouse File, the story originally said Democrats offered nine amendments. Actually, Democrats offered seven amendments and Republicans offered two amendments. The Statehouse File regrets the error.

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