Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

February 23, 2011

Dems walk out over right-to-work

Lack of quorum stops bills

Indiana’s House Democrats aren’t admitting it, but by all appearances the minority party caucus followed the example of Wisconsin’s Senate Democrats and walked out of the Indiana General Assembly Tuesday.

Three times Tuesday, the House Democrats ignored House Speaker Brian Bosma’s call to return to the House floor.

Shortly after 4 p.m., Bosma asked State Rep. Teri Austin, D-Anderson, where the rest of her caucus was.

“You don’t know? Excellent,” Bosma said sarcastically.

The walkout triggered political recriminations across the state, as Republicans called it a dereliction of duty, and Democrats blamed the Republican majority.

The three Democrats remaining on the floor all said the other Democrat members were meeting in caucus to review various amendments. Late Tuesday, party officials released a statement that House Democrats have relocated to Urbana, Ill., saying “the governor still has the ability to compel our attendance.”

“By staying here, we will be giving the people of Indiana a chance to find out more about this radical agenda and speak out against it,” the statement reads.

The Democrats walked out over right-to-work legislation, a measure that would have ended closed-shop arrangements between unions and employers.

Advocates for right-to-work say the legislation would bring jobs to Indiana.

Union members, who have protested by the thousands for the past two days at the Indiana Statehouse, say the measure is a union-busting tactic.

“Things that don’t get a committee report [read into the record] today are effectively dead,” State Rep. Mike Karickhoff, R-Kokomo, said just before noon Tuesday. “The state’s business needs to be done.”

Democrats made it clear they were drawing a line in the sand over right-to-work from the first day of the legislative session, when they tried to engineer an unprecedented first-day vote on two right-to-work bills.

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