Indiana Democrats now fined $350 per day, no end in sight
INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana: Tuesday, March 22 marked the start of the fourth consecutive week of Democratic absenteeism. Governor Daniels and House Republicans upped the ante with daily fines increasing from $250/day to $350/day, effective Monday, March 21. The fines have risen due to increased, yet failed efforts by Republicans to woo the Democrats back to the statehouse.
Despite the increased penalties, Democratic resolve remains intact. House Minority Leader B. Patrick Bauer stated Tuesday that Democrats "will remain steadfast" in their opposition to bills hurting wages and education in Indiana. Rep. Winfield Moses, Jr. (D) called the increase "a poke in the eye," and promised that it would do nothing to break the impasse.
The absent Democrats are not only holding up changes to worker's rights, but also the passage of a new state budget. The legislature has until April 29 to pass the new budget, however, if no budget passes, Gov. Daniels will be forced to call a for a special session. The current budget is set to expire June 30, 2011.
On February 22, all but three House Democrats left Indiana, depriving Republicans of a quorum and halting the passage of a proposed "right-to-work" bill, which would have allowed private-sector workers to opt out of joining unions. House minority leader B. Patrick Bauer revealed the Democratic caucus' hideout to be the Comfort Suites in Urbana, Illinois. Democrats Terri Austin, Steven Stemler, and Vanessa Summers stayed behind to provide, if necessary, a motion and a seconding motion, enabling them to stop any official business from proceeding, should the Republicans try to do so.
Beginning on March 7, the Democrats were subject to a fine of $250, to be withheld from future expense or salary payments, for each day they were not present in the statehouse. The Indiana Constitution, in Article 4, sections 11 and 14 allows for the use of fines and other such tactics to compel absent members to return. Regarding their actual pay, House Speaker Brian Bosma announced that the 37 lawmakers were required to be physically present in the chambers to receive their per diem payment, which is $152/day. This move came as a result of the approximated $40,000 in per diem payments automatically made to the legislators during their initial seven days of absence. According to reports, the representatives promised to either return the money, or donate it to charity.
Tory Flynn, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Brian Bosma, claims the state spent around $250,000 on House staff salaries and other expenses over the first week of the walkout. According to Flynn, the Democrats "are putting the entire state at a loss." Indiana legislators are paid $22,616.46 a year, and receive a per diem of $138 each day.
The 37 Democrats who left on February 22 are listed below:
- Wall Street Journal, GOP Raises Fines in Indiana Battle, 22 March 2011
- IndyStar.com, "Dems' walkout drags on, among nation's longest," March 23, 2011
- wsbt.com, "Legislative walkout enters second week with no progress in sight," February 28, 2011
- Fox 59, "Fines begin for absent House Democrats," March 7, 2011(Archived)
- IndyStar.com, Indiana Democrats trigger Statehouse showdown over anti-union legislation, 22 Feb. 2011
- The Wall Street Journal, "Pressure Mounts on Absent Democrats," March 3, 2011
- NCSL, 2010 Legislator Compensation Data, accessed 3 March 2011