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Indiana House Democrats return six weeks after fleeing in protest

The members who left the state objected to Republican measures they said were an attack on labor unions and public education.

March 28, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana House Democrats who fled the state to protest a Republican agenda they considered an assault on labor unions and public education returned to the statehouse Monday after nearly six weeks in Illinois.

Minority Leader Patrick Bauer said he and his fellow Democrats ended one of the longest legislative walkouts in recent U.S. history after winning concessions from Republicans on several issues.

"We're coming back after softening the radical agenda," said Bauer, whose return was greeted by cheering union workers.

Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma gaveled in the chamber shortly after 4 p.m., giving the House its first quorum since Democrats fled. "It's refreshing and pleasant to see a full chamber," he said.

But what Democrats actually achieved with the walkout is a matter of debate.

Republicans vowed throughout the standoff that they wouldn't remove items from their agenda, and by and large they won't have to. The only bill killed by the boycott was a "right to work" proposal that would prohibit union representation fees from being a condition of employment. Republicans agreed to changes on several other bills but are still pushing their agenda.

The Democrats' most significant achievement may be the public discussion about these issues across the state.

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