INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Former Indiana House Speaker Patrick is about to cast his final votes as he wraps up a 50-year lawmaker career that’s made him the longest-serving member in the Legislature’s history.
The South Bend Democrat’s time leading the House or serving as its chief budget writer through much of the 1990s and 2000s earned him a reputation as an often-combative and tough negotiator, but fellow legislators honored him Wednesday as a titan in Statehouse history as the Legislature’s session is set to adjourn next week.
Bauer, who announced his retirement in January, was House speaker for six years between 2002 and 2010, during which time clashed frequently with then-Gov. Mitch Daniels, and then, as minority leader, steered fellow Democrats on a five-week legislative boycott in 2011 trying to block passage of a state “right-to-work” law.
Some of the more than two dozen lawmakers who spoke during Bauer’s tribute recalled his time corralling votes as speaker or as Ways and Means Committee chairman during a time when the House was split 50-50 in separate two-year periods or Democrats only held a majority by a few seats.
“He was here with a take-no-prisoners approach, we are going to advance our cause, we’re going to make our points,” said Democratic Rep. Matt Pierce of Bloomington.
Republican Rep. Thomas Saunders of Lewisville recalled sitting outside Bauer’s office to discuss legislation as if he had been sent to see the school principal. Saunders said he still feels uncomfortable speaking before the House despite two decades as a member because of the tight control Bauer and fellow Democrats kept while in the majority.
“Those first eight years, every time I came up here it was ‘out of order,’ ‘point of order’ or something,” Saunders said.
Bauer was the House minority leader when Democrats refused to take the floor on a key deadline day at mid-session in 2005, killing more than 100 bills. Daniels then called Bauer a “throwback politician” whose party members had “car bombed” the legislative process. Bauer led Democrats on a 2011 boycott to an Illinois motel, which blocked the “right-to-work” bill that year but Republicans passed it the following year and Democrats suffered 2012 election losses that have left them largely powerless in the House since then.
Current Republican Speaker Brian Bosma, who is retiring after 34 years in the House, tangled with Bauer during that walkout and many other times as the House minority leader while Bauer was speaker. But Bosma also recalled how his and Bauer’s fathers each served in the Legislature together stretching back to the 1960s.
“I know that both our families and we, personally, have given everything that we can to the state of Indiana,” Bosma said. “For that, you have my utmost respect.”
Bauer told fellow lawmakers that he kept coming back because he felt he was helping his community.
“I think serving in the state legislature is better than in Congress or anything else, because you’re right here, you see your people enough and it’s your hometown you’re fixing,” he said.
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