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February 25, 2011

Indiana House adjourns amid GOP, Democrats' stalemate

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana House Minority Leader Patrick Bauer said Thursday he’s not sure whether boycotting Democrats will return to the Statehouse on Monday because so far “nothing’s changed” as House Republicans refuse to negotiate or drop contentious labor and education bills from their agenda.

Most Democrats have fled to Illinois in an effort to derail legislation they consider an assault on the working class. Republicans who control the House adjourned until Monday after Democrats said they won’t be back this week.

Bauer, D-South Bend, said Democrats won’t return from Urbana, Ill., where they fled Tuesday, until House Republicans are willing to negotiate their agenda. He said he would like to meet with Wisconsin Senate Democrats who also have fled to Illinois to block GOP-backed legislation that would strip public employees of most of their collective bargaining rights. Bauer said such a meeting would be like a pair of crime victims meeting to talk about their attacker.

The boycott by Indiana House Democrats complicates the session’s top priority — the budget. Republicans have said they won’t be bullied into dropping their agenda, and plan to extend legislative deadlines to save important bills once Democrats return.

Indiana Republicans are urging individual House Democrats to break ranks with their caucus and return to the Statehouse to work. But Rep. Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, said Democrats remain resolute and have no immediate plan to come back. Pelath was asked Thursday what it would take to get Democrats back to the Statehouse on Monday.

“That’s a caucus decision,” he said. ‘It’s going to be a group determination.”

Pelath came back from Illinois to trade positions with another Democrat who had been at the Statehouse for procedural reasons. He said the caucus would determine as a group whether members would stay in Illinois over the weekend or whether they would go home to their districts.

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