The state of Wisconsin garnered nationwide attention when legislation was proposed to cut the collective bargaining rights of state employees. Even more interesting was the Senate Democrats fleeing to Illinois to avoid voting on the measure and stalling the legislative process.
In Indiana, Democrats in the House of Representatives followed suit and on Feb. 22, they fled to Illinois as well.
While we at the Butler Collegian applaud the House Democrats for their willingness to take extreme measures to stand up to unfair legislation, we feel that the Democrats of Indiana took this demonstration too far.
Initially when the Democrats left the state, it was to oppose the right-to-work legislation. Democrats passionately opposed this bill, which contained provisions that would allow employees to work in private sector jobs without unionizing the bill so much so they left the state entirely.
Soon after leaving, the bill was tabled by the Republican majority, a measure that was supported by Gov. Mitch Daniels in an attempt to bring the fleeing lawmakers back to the state.
As time went on, the Democrats list of demands began to increase.
The walkout that originally stemmed from right-to-work legislation evolved into a walkout over several other Republican-supported bills.
This is when the Democrats began to lose site of their original intent and began taking advantage of their upper hand in the situation.
While the minority party was at The Comfort Suites hotel in Urbana, Ill., the majority party was forced to change the wording in several other pieces of legislation in an attempt to bring the Democrats back to the state. This included an education bill and a public construction bill, among others.
We understand that legislative walkouts are simply a political tool and history will prove that as well.
In 1995, the Indiana Democrats walked out in opposition to redistricting plans by the Republican Party. The Democrats were gone for two weeks until the Republicans tabled the legislation and they returned immediately.
In 2001, Indiana Republicans hosted a walkout of their own in opposition to Democratic proposals. Their demands were met and they returned two days later.
In this case, however, we at the Butler Collegian feel it is unfortunate that the Democrats took advantage of their situation and roped other pieces of legislation in to their demands.
Once the Republicans tabled the right-to-work legislation, Democrats should have returned to the state immediately and continued their business. They should have sought to come back and argue the other bills democratically and in the House chamber, not tie the Republicans hands and force them to amend other bills accordingly.
Another factor that many people tend to overlook is the entire cost of the Democrats walkout.
According to House Speaker Brian Bosma, the cost of housing the Democrats at the Urbana hotel was roughly $2,500 per night. By the end of the entire display of opposition, the bill is more than $85,000.
However, this is being paid for by the Democratic caucus so it will not cost the taxpayers a dime.
A media director for the House Democrats said that it is a “small cost in comparison to the millions of dollars of impact” that the Republican legislation would have on the state.
We feel the Democrats extended stay in Illinois started out as a well-intended act of opposition, but quickly went too far.