Indiana House Democrats return after 36 days
INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana: After a standoff of five weeks, Indiana House Democrats returned to work on Monday, with compromises being agreed to by both sides. The Democrats gathered at the state Democratic Headquarters shortly before 5 pm on March 28, and marched en masse to the Statehouse, where they were greeted by the cheers of pro-labor demonstrators.
The walkout, among the longest in the nation's legislative history, began on February 22 in order to prevent the quorum necessary to act on a "right-to-work" bill which Democrats saw as anti-union. The missing legislators spent most of their time away at a hotel in Urbana, Illinois. Governor Mitch Daniels urged the state to make up for "lost time," while both sides say they are eager to get in all of their work during the regular session, which ends April 29. This includes the creation of a new state budget, as well as redrawing the state's congressional and legislative districts.
Republicans agreed to compromise on three main bills. The "right-to-work" bill will be shelved for the year. It would have banned labor contracts requiring private-sector works to join unions. Secondly, the two sides agreed to a scaled down version of House Bill 1003, which offers private-school vouchers to students, implementing the program slower than originally planned. The third, House Bill 1216, deals with government construction projects paying union wage rates. Republicans sought to exempt any project under $1 million from having to use the union wage rate. This was scaled down to $250,000 for 2012 and $350,000 after.
Both sides are claiming victory in the standoff, but many believe the true winners will not be known until the 2012 elections, when all 100 state representatives will be up for re-election.