Indiana Legislature Faces Stalemate Republicans and Democrats in the Indiana Legislature are at an impasse in their battle over labor rights. All legislation is on hold, including two key bills that would limit teachers' rights to negotiate contracts, and another that would no longer require workers to join a union as a condition of employment.

Indiana Legislature Faces Stalemate

Indiana Legislature Faces Stalemate

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Republicans and Democrats in the Indiana Legislature are at an impasse in their battle over labor rights. All legislation is on hold, including two key bills that would limit teachers' rights to negotiate contracts, and another that would no longer require workers to join a union as a condition of employment.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Protests continued in Wisconsin today. Legislators in the assembly there are near a vote on a controversial bill that would take away some collective bargaining rights from many public employees. Action in the state Senate, though, remains at an impasse. State troopers were sent to the homes of the 14 Senate Democrats who fled the state to prevent a vote on the bill, not one was found at home.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Meanwhile, the legislature in Indiana also ground to a halt today, as Republicans and Democrats battled over labor rights there. All legislation is on hold, including a vote on the state's budget. Earlier this week, all but two Democrats walked out of the state house.

From Indianapolis, NPR's Claudio Sanchez has the latest on the Indiana stalemate.

CLAUDIO SANCHEZ: By 10:00 this morning it was clear, Indiana lawmakers would not be taking up the people's business.

State Representative BRIAN BOSMA (R-IN, House Speaker): Roll call shows 63 members present.

(Soundbite of a gavel)

State Rep. BOSMA: The chair declares that there's not a quorum for business.

SANCHEZ: That's House Speaker Brian Bosma, who says Democrats, including those who have fled to Illinois, told him they had no intention of returning today or tomorrow to vote on the budget and dozens of bills unless Republicans do the following: pull their proposal to curtail teachers' collective bargaining rights, drop their school vouchers proposal and abandon efforts to declare Indiana a right to work state. Bosma says those demands are politically unacceptable.

Rep. BOSMA: This is more than just labor issues. This is a concerted effort to change the agenda that was - that the folks selected at the ballot box last November. And my response has been - that's not going to happen.

(Soundbite of protest)

SANCHEZ: Outside the House chambers, hundreds of union members chanted you're fired. They were in no mood to compromise.

This is exactly what Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels wanted to avoid. He wants to press unions to make concessions but, unlike his counterparts in Ohio and Wisconsin, he did not want to confront unions this legislative session, focusing instead on school reform.

Meanwhile, House Republicans insist their goal is to attract companies and investors who would rather not deal with unions. But union leaders don't believe that.

Mr. NATHAN SCHNELLENBURGER: Their goal is to destroy our association.

SANCHEZ: Nathan Schnellenburger heads Indiana's state teachers association. He says no one is more threatened in this fight over workers' rights than teachers. Already, Republicans in the Indiana Senate have pushed through a bill limiting teachers' bargaining rights. It would deny them the right to negotiate things like class size, tenure and teacher evaluations. Schnellenburger says another bill ties teacher pay to student performance.

Mr. SCHNELLENBURGER: Teachers have been targeted, and I think that it's - that is politically motivated because traditionally, unions have contributed more money to Democratic candidates than they have to Republican candidates.

SANCHEZ: Schnellenburger says if you weaken the unions, you likely weaken the Democratic Party and insists that's the motivation for this fight.

On the streets of Indianapolis, far from the political drama and long lines of protestors, people seem to be growing weary. Stefanie Dirth, a young woman who works as a microbiologist, says it's frustrating to hear and read about the political bickering day after day.

Ms. STEFANIE DIRTH: I think that Republicans are quick to shoot down anything that Democrats do, and Democrats are really quick to shoot down anything Republicans do, and there's not enough talking. It's actually kind of sad.

And there appears to be no end in sight. If House Democrats do not show up tomorrow, all pending legislation will die, including any chance of passing a new state budget. What happens after that is anybody's guess.

Claudio Sanchez, NPR News, Indianapolis.

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