INDIANAPOLIS | The division between the two political parties in the Indiana House widened Wednesday as each side waited to see whether the other would blink first in a partisan standoff that began Tuesday.
Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels said if the Democrats' departure kills the budget and his other legislative priorities, he will call the General Assembly into special session in May, once the current session ends.
"We will not be bullied or blackmailed out of pursuing the agenda we laid in front of the people of Indiana," Daniels said. "That agenda is going to get voted on, and if it takes special sessions from now to New Year's, we will hold them, and we will send the bill to Representative Bauer and to the Democratic Party of Indiana."
The General Assembly by law meets in regular session until April 29, and many of the proposals that would die due to a continued Democratic boycott could be revived via amendment or other parliamentary maneuvers if the Democrats return.
Late Tuesday night, state Rep. Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, the Democratic leader, sent House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, a list of legislation that must be removed from consideration if Democrats are to return from a hotel in Urbana, Ill.
Bosma said he told Bauer on Wednesday morning the Democrats' terms are unacceptable. Driving home the point, Bosma signed his name Wednesday afternoon to House Bill 1450, one of 11 bills Democrats want stopped.
The speaker's signature was the final requirement before the legislation, which reduces payments to unemployed workers and increases business unemployment premiums, goes to the governor.
"We will not concede to a list of demands from those who have vacated the state," Bosma said.
Speaking with reporters via telephone from Illinois, Bauer said Democrats want to return to the Statehouse but will not stand idly by while Republicans pursue an agenda that will destroy the middle class.
"We hope that this 'time out' gives some time for reflection to those who want to radicalize our state," Bauer said.
If Democrats don't return Thursday, the 2012-13 state budget and 24 other bills awaiting procedural action will die. All House-initiated legislation must receive a final vote by Friday under House rules or else it dies.
State Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, D-Munster, said Democrats want to work with Republicans on the budget bill. She said Democratic representatives met several times Wednesday and prepared nearly 100 amendments to House Bill 1001.
"They can say what they want, but the reality is that we are working hard," Candelaria Reardon said.
But so long as the Republicans are intent on pushing through legislation that limits union collective bargaining rights and redirects money from traditional public schools to charter and private schools, the Democrats have no choice but to stay away, she said.
"Honestly, it wasn't an easy decision to make and had we not been serving in such a partisan session, things might be different," Candelaria Reardon said.
The Munster representative is one of 35 Democrats holed up in the Illinois hotel. The state Democratic Party is paying for their rooms. The Democrats also are receiving $155 daily expenses payments for now, though Bosma said he's looking into finding a way to stop the per diem payments.
The Democrats left the state Tuesday afternoon to prevent any attempt to require them to attend House sessions.
Republicans control 60 seats in the 100-member body, but 67 members are required to be present to do legislative business.
The Indiana Constitution authorizes the House to compel the attendance of absent members -- but does not detail how that should be done. Daniels said Tuesday he will not divert state police officers from their regular duties to track down the Democrats as governors in other states have done.
Daniels said the Democrats have made their point and ought to return to the state and Statehouse.
"You don't walk off the job, take your public paycheck with you and attempt to bring the whole process to a screeching halt," Daniels said. "You know, if they persist, the Democratic Party of Indiana will need a rebranding effort because this is as anti-democratic as behavior can be."