Brought to you by WBIW News and Network Indiana
Last updated on Tuesday, March 29, 2011
(STATEHOUSE) - House Democrats have ended their walkout after five weeks, returning to the statehouse for a long evening of playing catch-up.
Minority Leader Patrick Bauer says 38 striking democrats agreed unanimously to come back after republicans made one final concession, offering to phase in proposed limits on which public works contracts require union labor.
Bauer is declaring victory, predicting voters will thank democrats for drawing attention to a handful of labor and education bills, and softening some of them.
Topping the to-do list for the returning legislators: a new state budget, and the 334 amendments that have been proposed since the house last had a quorum five weeks ago.
Republicans had agreed almost immediately to drop the right-to-work bill which sparked the walkout in the first place.
They made additional concessions in the course of the walkout, reducing the scope of a private-school voucher bill, and dropping a proposal creating the possibility of private companies taking over schools which consistently fail to meet academic standards.
The lingering sore point was a bill restricting what are called "Project Labor Agreements": deals on public works projects guaranteeing union wages.
Portland Representative Bill Davis's original bill would have banned PLA's on projects costing less than a million dollars.
Republicans agreed to lower that threshold to $350,000.
One final concession from Davis sealed the deal: he'll propose phasing in the new threshold over two years.
The Democrats' return leaves five weeks for the legislature to finish its business for the year.
Senate President Pro Tem David Long says the budget shouldn't be delayed, because the senate gave up and opened committee hearings last week.
But he says other bills will die because of the time crunch.
The walkout cost each missing legislator up to $3,150 dollars in fines.
Two of the 40 house Democrats are not subject to fines.
Jeffersonville's Steven Stemler was the sole democrat to defy the strike, while Milton Representative Phil Pflum had been absent even before the walkout, recovering from gallbladder surgery.
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