Friday, March 04, 2011

Can House Democrats Afford $250 A Day Fine? And Who Will Pay?

Indiana House Republicans have finally taken the action they should have taken more than a week ago. Beginning next week, House Democratic caucus members holed up in a hotel in Urbana, Illinois in order to shut down the business of the House of Representatives will be fined $250.00 a day for their absence. From today's Star:

It's my hope that this incentive will bring back a quorum beginning next Monday, and we can conduct business accordingly," said House Speaker Brian Bosma.

Minority Leader B. Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, was unfazed.

"We'll pay these fines, and it's worth it," he told reporters via speakerphone. "It's worth it for the kids. It's worth it to keep our public schools open. And it's a far less penalty than the hundreds of thousands of workers are going to be paying if (Republicans') bills are passed."
"We'll pay these fines?" We know House Democratic members are not picking up the tab for their hotel rooms in Urbana. The Indiana Democratic Party is picking up the $2,500 a day tab for their hotel bill in Urbana, Illinois with money that may be coming from unions and other lobbying interests into the state party coffers for this purpose in clear violation of Indiana law. Lobbying interests are barred by state law from paying for legislators' out-of-state travel expenses. Further, the party is openly soliciting these contributions for the benefit of the legislators in clear violation of another state law that bars legislators from fundraising activities while the legislature is in session. The fact of the matter is that a number of the Democatic caucus members like many Hoosiers live paycheck to paycheck and do not have the financial means to pay that kind of a fine on an ongoing basis. I don't believe for one minute that most, if not all, of these members have any intention of paying these fines out of their own paychecks. Once again, they will likely turn to their union pals or other special interest groups to finance their exile.

This is what should happen. Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller should do his job as provided by statute and immediately open an investigation to determine whether union funds or other lobbying sources are being funneled through the state party to fund the Democrats' act of holding the legislature hostage until its legislative demands are met. Subpoenas should be issued to command receipts and other records tracking the flow of money. If the shoe were on the other foot, you can bet a Democratic Attorney General would not hesitate to take similar steps against such conduct if committed by Republican lawmakers and Democrats would expect no less from him or her. If the evidence gathered from the investigation shows a violation of the law, he should file criminal charges against the offenders, which in this case is a Class D felony. If Greg Zoeller has time in his day to to use the bully pulpit of his office to stand up for people who break our laws and come to our state illegally from other countries, surely he can help us ensure that our elected representatives fulfill their constitutional duties by showing up to conduct the people's business instead of standing idly by while this small minority remains in exile at the behest of their union bosses.

On a final note, the many House Democratic members who have other government jobs should be fired from those jobs. Why? Because their absence from their government jobs is premised on them tending to their legislative duties at the State House. If they aren't reporting for work at the State House, then they have a duty to their government employers to report to duty at their regular jobs. This would include House Democratic Leader Pat Bauer and Rep. Craig Fry, both of whom are employed by Ivy Tech Community College, a state education institution financed with state tax dollars. Also, Rep. Greg Porter is employed by the Marion County Health & Hospital Corporation. All three of these men are paid high salaries for their plum jobs. In the private sector, employees who are no show, no work are fired. These men should be treated no differently.

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