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Thursday, Apr. 28, 2016

Democrats walk off House floor

Wednesday, March 2, 2005

By MIKE SMITH AP Political Writer

INDIANAPOLIS -- So much for the pre-session pledges of bipartisanship between Republicans and Democrats in an Indiana House that has been closely divided for 16 years.

At the midpoint of the 2005 legislative session, such positive talk has digressed to verbal shots, political wrangling and gridlock that each party blames the other for causing.

The latest feud festered Tuesday, when House Democrats refused to take the floor all day and night as a midnight deadline passed to advance bills to the Senate. The move derailed several bills, including legislation to mandate statewide observance of daylight saving time and give prosecutorial powers to the governor's inspector general.

The GOP-controlled House convened early Tuesday morning, but Democrats upset about several bills they consider partisan power grabs left the floor to meet privately and never returned.

Republicans said Democrats were miffed over losing the governor's race and control of the House in the November election and were ignoring their elected duty to participate.

"If there is one thing they (the public) hate about government, it's gridlock," said House Republican fiscal leader Jeff Espich of Uniondale said. "It's even worse when one side won't come to the table and talk and discuss."

Gov. Mitch Daniels, who strongly backed the daylight-time and inspector general bills, was in Washington, D.C., but Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman kept him informed of the impasse.

"A great disservice has been done today to the people of Indiana," Skillman said. "The governor and I believe these antics are disgraceful. The House Democrats have played politics with no intention of letting reforms go forward."

Although House Democrats are outnumbered 52-48, at least 67 members must be present in the chamber to conduct business, and Democrats never provided the quorum needed.

Midnight was the deadline for bills to clear their house of origin and be sent to the other chamber, and the Democrats' floor boycott derailed -- at least temporarily -- several bills in addition to daylight-saving time.

They included legislation that could lead to financing a new stadium for the NFL's Colts, free local telephone phone service providers from pricing caps and most state regulations, and impose new restrictions designed to curb methamphetamine production.

Language in several bills could be salvaged by including it in amendments to other bills later this session. But several bills likely will never be resurrected.

House Democrats said Daniels and Republicans had gone too far in pushing a partisan agenda. Democrats said the inspector general bill, for example, would give the governor unprecedented power to conduct political witch hunts. Republicans said it would help root out government corruption.

House Democrats said a bill that would require voters to show state or federal photo IDs before casting ballots would disenfranchise some voters to the GOP's benefit. Republicans said it would help prevent voter fraud.

Democrats made no apologies for their floor boycott.

"Actually sometimes you do a service to the public by not passing bad bills that hurt people and hurt voters, so it could be a plus," Bauer said.

Republicans blasted Democrats for their inaction.

Skillman said she urged Bauer to keep the legislative process moving and told him there was time to seek changes in legislation. Lawmakers have until late April to conclude the session.

"It's pretty tough to represent your constituents if you're not on the floor," Skillman said.

When asked if Daniels could have helped break the impasse had he not been in Washington, she said, "He should not have to be here to hold hands to get the job done."

Democrats noted that House Republicans staged similar floor boycotts several times in recent years when they were in the minority.

"There are few ways a minority party can be heard in the process and it's unfortunate this is one of them, but it is not unlike others we have faced in other sessions," said Rep. Chet Dobis, D-Merrillville.

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