AP's LoBianco Laments Financial Penalties Facing Indiana Dem Legislators Who Fail to Show Up for Work
Indiana House of Representatives Democrats could incur fines for every day that they refuse to show up to work. Democratic caucus members have threatened to fail to report for duty as a protest against a Republican bill that would make Indiana a right-to-work state.
Reporting the story for the Associated Press today, Tom LoBianco (available here on Twitter) heavily weighed down his report with sob stories about the potential financial difficulty facing Democrats should they boycott the job they were elected to do (emphasis mine):
(INDIANAPOLIS) — Indiana's House Democrats are bracing for major financial pain as they begin a third day blocking a bill that would make Indiana the first state in more than a decade to enact right-to-work legislation.
Fines of $1,000 daily for each Democrat could hit Friday, depending on what Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma decides to do with lawmakers who deny him the numbers needed to push through the Republican priority.
But Rep. Vanessa Summers, D-Indianapolis, said that if she can stand on principle against the labor bill and fines that could reach into the tens of thousands of dollars, other Democrats can, too. "I'll be the main one to say 'I cannot stand the fine,'" she said Thursday as Democrats strategized in a private meeting at the Statehouse. "I'm a single mother, I have a son in college, I'm moving in with my mother, but I'm on the right side of history. So whatever happens is going to bless me."
Inside the 40-member caucus, lawmakers are split over how much they can afford to keep stalling in order to block the bill. Some strode out of Thursday's caucus meeting saying that if they suffered through last year's five-week stay in Urbana, Ill., they can stand on principle now.
But others said new $1,000-a-day fines established by Republicans after last year's walkout have raised the stakes much higher than some can afford. "Last year they were taking my bank account, this year they're taking my home," said Rep. David Cheatham, D-North Vernon. Cheatham was one of three Democrats who has joined Republicans in the House chamber each day. They say they oppose the right-to-work measure but don't agree with the stall tactics.
House Democratic Leader Patrick Bauer said Thursday that Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma told him in a private meeting he would begin fining Democrats on Friday. "It's a significant issue. We think it's another assault against free speech," Bauer said as he walked into the House Democratic caucus meeting.
The new law levies a fine of $1,000 per day against each lawmaker who sits out more than three days in a row. Republicans established the new penalties after Democrats left the state last year to block the right-to-work measure.
The House Democratic caucus meanwhile opened an account on the Democratic fundraising website ActBlue and sent out an appeal Wednesday on Facebook seeking donations of between $5 and $250. "The Indiana House Democrats NEED YOUR HELP! Please support our caucus as we fight another battle against the Republicans as they try to push RTW legislation through without listening to working Hoosiers," the Democrats wrote in their appeal.
Only once did LoBianco directly quote a Republican, House Speaker Brian Bosma: "We're just counting on folks having some common sense and showing up for work eventually."
Nowhere in his 17-paragraph story did LoBianco get comment from an independent Indiana taxpayer about his or her thoughts on Democrats' unwillingness to show up for work and/or the use of a financial penalty to compel attendance in the legislative chamber.