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Indiana Dems continue month-long boycott to protest GOP bills

Becky Cropper of Indianapolis, shouts as she holds up a sign during a rally outside the Statehouse in Indianapolis, Thursday, March 10, 2011. Union members have staged daily rallies at the Statehouse to protest bills they say are unfair to Indiana's union workers.
AP Photo/Tom Strattman
Indiana, protests, union
Becky Cropper of Indianapolis, shouts as she holds up a sign during a rally outside the Statehouse in Indianapolis, Thursday, March 10, 2011.
AP Photo/Tom Strattman

Democrats in Wisconsin may have relented in the standoff over union rights and returned to their state, but the Democrats from Indiana are holding their ground.

Democrats from the Indiana House have been out of state since Feb. 22, making their legislative "boycott" of Republican legislation one of the longest in the country. On Wednesday, however, Indiana House Democratic Leader Pat Bauer left the Democrats' makeshift office space in an Illinois hotel to meet privately with Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma at the Indianapolis statehouse, the Louisville Courier-Journal reports.

The meeting did not end the standoff, but both political leaders reportedly said they made progress in their closed-door meeting. "It's possibly the beginning of the end," Bosma said, the Associated Press reports.

Indiana House Democrats fled the state to deprive the legislative body of the two-thirds quorum needed to pass legislation, taking a page from the Democratic playbook in Wisconsin, where lawmakers were trying to stall a vote on a bill restricting collective bargaining rights for public workers.

Unions and their supporters have said the legislation in Wisconsin and places like Indiana are part of a larger Republican effort to scale back union rights. The Wisconsin bill was signed into law but faces a court challenge, while battles over union rights continue in other states including Illinois and Tennessee.

In Indiana, at issue are a set of education bills and labor bills, including one measure that would impact wages for workers on government construction projects. Bauer and Bosma said they had a positive exchange of ideas over the bills in question, particularly the construction bill.

After more than a month of absence, the state House Democrats are anxious to get back, according to the Courier-Journal, so they can let the state legislature pass a budget, take up redistricting legislation and address dozens of other pending bills. Still, they are not letting up the boycott.

"If you know that what you're fighting for is right, you can maintain resolve," Democratic state Rep. Terry Goodin told the Courier-Journal.

"We understand that we can't drive the agenda. We understand we can't force everything we want. But there has to be compromise."