By Olivia Ober
The Statehouse File
INDIANAPOLIS — A dispute over the Republican speaker of the Indiana House’s ability to collect fines from Democrats who boycott the chamber is headed to the Indiana Supreme Court.
The court decided to take up the case on Friday, speeding the battle out of Marion County courts and past the appeals courts entirely.
In 2011, House Democrats spent five weeks in a Comfort Suites hotel in Urbana, Ill. while boycotting a series of Republican-backed measures. Bosma fined the absent Democrats a total of $3,150 in an effort to get them to return.
Rep. Bill Crawford, D-Indianapolis, sued, protesting Bosma’s authority to deduct the money from the Democrat’s paychecks. A Marion County Superior Court judge ruled in favor of Crawford and issued a temporary restraining order stopping those fines from being collected.
This year, Democrats boycotted nine days out of the first four weeks of the 2012 legislative session. Bosma imposed a total of $4,000 each in fines for the boycott, and two Democrats sued.
Judge David Dreyer merged this case with Crawford’s case from last year and imposed a temporary restraining order on the collection of fines. Most House Democrats have joined this case since then.
Dreyer heard arguments from both sides Friday and extended the term of the restraining order until Feb. 6.
The Supreme Court decided to take up Crawford’s case, but not the new one, on Friday. However, the ruling on Crawford’s case would likely be applied to the new case.
The office of Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller is representing Bosma in the case in its capacity as the state’s lawyer.
“Under our constitution, disagreements between legislators over legislative rules should be hammered out and decided within the legislative branch, not the judicial branch,” Zoeller said.
“Because the plaintiffs brought this internal dispute to the trial court, the state now must ask a higher court to send the dispute back to the legislature where it fundamentally and properly belongs.”
Mark GiaQuinta, brother of Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, is representing the Democrats in this case.
Olivia Ober is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.