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Another tense week at Statehouse

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While House Democrats remain in Illinois for what will be the fourth week, House and the Senate Republicans stay busy at the state capitol.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, and House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, announced Thursday that House and Senate Republicans will work together to salvage this year's legislative session.

Republican leaders doubt that the Democrats will return from Urbana, Ill. any time soon and Minority Leader Pat Bauer confirmed those doubts in a conference call with reporters.

Bosma said that he will be increasing the imposed fine for missing Democrats from $250 per day to $350. His decision to increase the cost of fines received strong opposing emotions from Democrats.

"We don't see the welcome mat there, with a hundred dollars added to our fine. It's not a warm, inviting place," Bauer said.

Bosma and Long said the Senate and the House will be working together to move forward in this legislative session until Democrats return.

"There will be three caucuses working in the Statehouse for the people of Indiana, doing the job they were elected to do, respecting the people who elected them," Long said.

House Republicans will be allowed to sit in on Senate committee hearings, view the proceedings, possibly ask questions, and participate in any other way that does not violate Senate committee rules.

Bosma and Long said they are also considering enacting anti-bolting legislation that will address this issue for the future.

Bauer criticized the consideration of such legislation.

"That is to distract from the issues before us. The issues before are their attack on public education and their attack on the working people," Bauer said.

Bosma also said the chamber shutdown has prompted Republicans to think about proposing laws that would allow Hoosiers to recall missing lawmakers.

With Democrats gone, the Republican members of the House Rules Committee extended the deadline for the chamber to pass bills and send them over to the Senate until March 31.

In a letter that sparked the Republican move, Bauer said the Democrats would return if Republicans would lower caps on the number of students able to use a private school voucher program that Republicans have proposed, and if Republicans agreed to kill a labor bill by sending it to a summer study committee.

Bosma agreed to caps on the vouchers systems, and said they were already working to lower those caps, but is not willing to take off the table the bill that would end project labor agreements, which favor union workers on public works projects.

Public pressure has led Republicans to consider a recall procedure, Bosma said. One cannot be enacted until is passes the House, which cannot happen until Democrats end their boycott.

He said there are other options, too, such as changing the two-thirds quorum requirement which would take a constitutional amendment.

Bauer said those possibilities are distractions.

A gay marriage ban was the topic of emotional testimony Wednesday during a Senate Judiciary Committee.

Indianapolis-based pharmaceutical maker Eli Lilly and Co. and Columbus-based engine maker Cummins, Inc. said a constitutional ban of both gay marriages and civil unions or anything else resembling a legal recognition of a same-sex couple's relationship could interfere with their ability to offer domestic partner benefits. Therefore, they said, Indiana companies might not attract qualified homosexual candidates.

The committee took hours of testimony, but delayed a vote until next week. The measure's passage is expected because the Senate has approved the same ban several times in recent years.

A Senate committee also made several changes to a bill that would expand the number of state charter schools.

The committee rid a provision that would have diverted some transportation dollars from traditional public schools to charter schools out of House Bill 1002, a move likely to alleviate some of those districts' concerns that the bill would pack a financial blow.

More provisions include requiring that 75 percent of teachers at charter schools be licensed, and requiring that part-time teachers have a bachelor's degree in the subject area they teach with a grade point average of 3.0.


-- Franklin College Statehouse Bureau reporters Megan Banta, Samm Quinn, Suzannah Couch and Sarah Seward contributed to this report.



The above is one of an ongoing series of reports from the Indiana Statehouse by students at the Franklin College Pulliam School of Journalism.

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