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Return of the Dems

The Indiana House of Representatives was back in business Monday for the first time in more than a month. When House Democrats returned to their chamber on the second floor of the Indiana Statehouse, they were greeted with applause from waiting union members.

More than 30 Democrats had fled to Urbana, Illinois, on Feb. 22 in protest of Republican-backed legislation they deemed as anti-union, anti-teacher and anti-public schools. Although the GOP controls the Indiana House, the party does not hold enough seats to call a quorum, so Democrats stayed away until Republican leadership agreed to amend certain bills.

It’s not clear if the Democrats’ tactic worked, although one proposal to enact so-called right-to-work laws was taken off the table by Republicans.

House Democratic leader Pat Bauer views the walkout as a success. “We won a battle but we recognize the war goes on,” Bauer said.

House Majority Speaker Brian Bosma successfully called the House into session at 4 p.m. Chicago time. Lawmakers wasted no time picking up where they left off; they discussed the state’s budget and a host of bills, including one that would provide taxpayer-supported vouchers to parents who wish to send their children to private schools.

Bosma said lawmakers can’t waste time if they hope to finish the session by the April 29 deadline.

“(Bauer) gave me his pledge that they will in good faith try to wrap this session up in regular time and deal with the important issues that face the taxpayers,” Bosma said.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels said lawmakers could be working long hours but didn’t rule out the possibility of extending the legislative session.

“Our pro-jobs agenda of low spending, low taxes, and educational improvement is squarely in the Hoosier mainstream. The only thing ‘radical’ about this session has been the decision by one caucus to walk off the job for five weeks,” Daniels said. “Now that it’s finally over, let’s make up the lost time.”

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