2012 Indiana General Assembly

Still more to be done at Statehouse, with RTW fight over for now

2012-02-17T17:00:00Z 2012-02-22T15:16:04Z Still more to be done at Statehouse, with RTW fight over for nowBy Dan Carden dan.carden@nwi.com, (317) 637-9078 nwitimes.com
February 17, 2012 5:00 pm  • 

INDIANAPOLIS | The hundreds of Northwest Indiana residents who protested right-to-work legislation at the Statehouse in January might hardly recognize the place these days.

Gone are the hours-long lines to enter the building and the crowded hallways filled with chanting, sign-waving Hoosiers watched over by dozens of extra state police officers.

The marble hallways now belong to well-dressed lobbyists chatting up lawmakers as they enter and exit the House and Senate chambers. And when more than 3,000 charter school students and teachers filled the Statehouse on Wednesday there was no talk of capacity limits.

Inside the Republican-controlled House, it has been practically tranquil as representatives propose amendments, debate back and forth, vote on legislation and work across party lines to hammer out compromises.

There have been no more walkouts, boycotts, protests, six-minute committee hearings or $1,000 fines levied.

The House gallery, which last month was crammed with union members sitting cheek-by-jowl to monitor debate on right-to-work, was nearly empty Thursday as the House spent more time on congratulatory resolutions for Indiana sports teams than actual legislation.

State Rep. Tom Dermody, R-LaPorte, said he's happy lawmakers have put the right-to-work fight behind them and that the House is back to normal.

"I'm glad that everybody is sitting in their seats and doing the job everybody was elected to do," Dermody said. "That's what we're supposed to be doing."

But even though Democrats are in attendance and actively participating, that doesn't mean right-to-work is far from their minds, said state Rep. Shelli VanDenburgh, D-Crown Point.

"We have in no way forgotten, and it will drive us all to work harder in our campaigns, but for now it's behind us," VanDenburgh said. "We just have to look forward and see what we're going to do to undo it."

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said he does not miss the daily protests, which often featured signs depicting him in unflattering poses.

"It's nice to come to work and not be called Hitler and other choice names and have people screaming and yelling; it's very refreshing," Bosma said.

Helping ease the tension is a near-total lack of controversial legislation lawmakers have to deal with before adjourning for the year in March. With right-to-work already law and the state budget still in surplus, lawmakers say they don't have much left to fight over.

"When you look at the bill list, there are few bills the state can't live without," Bosma said.

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