INDIANAPOLIS | House Democrats discovered Thursday the Republican supermajority will hang together in the name of party unity even if it means ignoring the needs of middle class families.
With just 31 Democrats in the 100-member body, amendments are one of the few tools Democrats have to influence legislation moving through the House.
In the Democrats' first use of their amendment strategy, state Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, asked the Republican-controlled chamber for an addition to House Bill 1024, which would require the Indiana Office of Management and Budget to figure out how private sector jobs are affected by pending state rules.
Pierce's proposed amendment mandated OMB also determine the economic impact of state regulations on the middle class.
"I think it's really important to send a message to the middle class that we have not forgotten you," Pierce said.
But state Rep. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, the sponsor of the legislation, said there was no need for Pierce's middle class amendment.
Koch called it an attempt to engender "class warfare" and questioned why Pierce was concerned only about the middle class and not the poor or unemployed.
House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, defended Pierce's proposal and said looking out for the middle class is not class warfare, just "simple economic reality."
"The middle class is the economic engine for Indiana and our economic future," Pelath said. "Middle class workers are actually the profit creators for Indiana."
Koch nevertheless asked his fellow Republicans to reject Pierce's amendment, which they promptly did. The amendment failed, 31-67, without a single Republican voting for it.
The defeated amendment is a setback of sorts for House Democrats, who had hoped presession promises of bipartisanship made by House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, would encourage Republicans to sometimes break party ranks and vote with Democrats on uncontroversial amendments.