Walkout Puts Squeeze On House Bills

Chambers Face Midnight Deadline To Approve Own Legislation

House Democrats declined to take the floor for much of Tuesday in protest of some Republican proposals, threatening the future of more than 100 bills as a midnight deadline for their approval approached.

State lawmakers have until midnight to approve bills originating in their own chamber. As of 6 p.m., House Democrats still hadn't returned since leaving in the morning when the chamber convened.

House Minority Leader Pat Bauer, D-South Bend

Tuesday was the second straight day that House Democrats, in a tactic long used by minority parties in closely divided chambers, left the floor at the beginning of the session to meet in caucus, RTV6's Norman Cox reported. Republicans have a 52-48 majority in the House, but two-thirds of members need to be present to do business.

More than 100 House bills -- including legislation that would mandate statewide observance of daylight-saving time -- were pending Tuesday. House bills must be passed by midnight if the Senate is to consider them this year.

It wasn't clear when the Democrats would return to the House floor on Tuesday.

House Minority Leader Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, announced at the start of Tuesday's session that Democrats would leave the floor to study the issues.

"There's 130 votes -- we want to study them diligently and get back to you all," Bauer said. "But if you have any ideas yourself on how to make these bills better for the people, let us know."

His explanation aside, Democrats have made it clear that they are upset with some bills pushed by Gov. Mitch Daniels and House Republicans. One of those proposals would give prosecutorial powers to Daniels' inspector general, and another would require voters to show state or U.S.-supplied photo IDs before casting ballots on election days.

House Speaker Brian Bosma

House Speaker Brian Bosma, a Republican, reminded lawmakers Tuesday that even if the House worked straight to midnight, each pending bill could get only a few minutes of consideration. A delay would kill a number of proposals.

Bosma rejected the notion that Democrats needed to study the bills on deadline day.

"The bills that are on third reading today are, I think, pretty clear. I think the members know where they stand on these issues," he said.

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