- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 4, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana’s House Democrats prevented the chamber from doing any business Wednesday and the party’s leader said it will continue stalling until certain demands are met over a Republican right-to-work bill that Democrats used a five-week boycott to block last year.

House Democratic Leader Patrick Bauer said they want the Republicans to hold more public hearings on the bill, which would ban unions from collecting mandatory fees for representation.

He did not say how many, however, adding that he wants to meet with Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma first to discuss what it will take for Democrats to return to their seats.

“I think it’s a filibuster until we get the truth,” Mr. Bauer said of Republican plans to hold a hearing Friday on the measure.

He said Republicans were “railroading” the measure through the House, although Mr. Bosma and other Republicans have contended that it got a thorough vetting by the public last summer during a series of hearings.

When asked how long the Democrats will stay out, Mr. Bauer said, “that time schedule is not in our hands.”

Most Indiana House Democrats had been no-shows on the floor Wednesday when Mr. Bosma tried to start the new session. Their absence left the House short of the two-thirds of members present needed to continue.

Instead Democrats holed up inside a conference room just steps from the House chamber and spent more than three hours debating tactics on the first day of the 2012 session.

Last year, House Democrats left the state to block the measure, but Mr. Bauer said this year his members would not leave Indianapolis.

Mr. Bosma had said earlier that a boycott by Democrats would not lead Republicans to drop the bill again as they did last year. He said Democrats were bowing to pressure from union leaders and said the proposal’s passage was a key to making Indiana more attractive to potential employers.

“It is the No. 1 jobs issue that we can address this session and the No. 1 issue is jobs,” Mr. Bosma said.

The bill would make Indiana the first state to enact a right-to-work law since Oklahoma in 2001, and the 23rd overall.

Rep. Craig Fry, Mishawaka Democrat, had called a walkout “the only way” to block the bill. But new fines and lawmakers concerned about re-election in 2012 could make another walkout more painful.

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