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Democrats Return to Statehouse, Work on Project Labor Bill

State lawmakers wasted no time once Democrats returned to the capital Monday following a five-week walkout.

house in session

Photo: Dan Goldblatt (WFIU News)

Lawmakers in session.

After five weeks in Urbana, Illinois, Indiana House Democrats returned to the Statehouse Monday.

House Minority Leader Pat Bauer informed Speaker Brian Bosma of the Democrats’ intention to return to Indianapolis just before the House roll call Monday afternoon. Bauer says the Democrats received enough concessions to come back.

“We’re grateful,” he says, “that they reached out and we’re grateful that some people won’t have to suffer.”

Meanwhile, Bosma says Republicans made significant changes to a few pieces of legislation, but did not compromise the integrity of any of those bills.

Bosma says there were reasons aside from legislative compromises for the Democrats to come back.

“I think In part,” Bosma says, “public pressure. Five weeks in the Comfort Suites hotel would be on my list as well.”

In a written statement, Governor Daniels criticized the Democrats for walking out and called on them to make up for lost time.

There was also progress last night on one particular bill that kept the Democrats in Illinois.

The bill acted on Monday involves construction wages and union agreements on public works projects. The legislation originally moved the minimum threshold for construction projects requiring union labor from $150,000 to $1 million.

Since the walkout, the bill’s author, Representative Bill Davis, gradually moved the ceiling down. The final compromise put the threshold at $250,000 the first year and $350,000 after that. Davis included other compromises as well.

“The current bill,” he says, “completely removes school corporations and university projects from having to use common construction wage. This amendment puts them back in, they’ll stay in the common construction wage bill.”

Davis also added language allowing ballot measures to approve using union contracts for public works projects.

Democrats thanked Davis for his concessions and tried to alter the bill further with four more amendments, each of which was defeated.

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