URBANA, Ill. — Indiana House Democrats left their state and signed proposed bill amendments from an Illinois hotel Tuesday night, insisting their exodus was not prompted exclusively by Republicans’ labor bills.

Democratic Rep. Shelli VanDenburgh of Crown Point, for example, said she would also like to stop House Bill 1003, the GOP’s school voucher bill. It and many other pieces of legislation could die this week as legislative deadlines pass.

“It’s not that we’re not working,” VanDenburgh said. “We’re not in the Statehouse working. This is the only way that we can serve the people that we represent and kill the poison bills.”

Faces normally seen on the Democrats’ side of the aisle seemed to pop up around every corner in the Urbana, Ill., hotel. Northwest Indiana lawmakers said more than 100 budget amendments they helped sign will be delivered to the Statehouse Wednesday morning by their staff.

“It has not been a vacation up here,” Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, said.

The Democrats were last seen in the House Monday when the chamber recessed. They went into a caucus meeting and never returned. Reports surfaced Tuesday that they had fled the state to force a legislative shutdown.

Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma said he’d try to call a quorum at 9 a.m. region time Wednesday.

“We will return here, daily, until our work is complete,” Bosma said.

Brown said 32 members of his caucus were in Illinois. Two, he said, were in Kentucky. A few others are ill, he said, and a few are monitoring activity in Indianapolis.

Northwest Indiana delegation members seen in the Illinois hotel included Brown, VanDenburgh, Earl Harris of East Chicago, Linda Lawson of Hammond, Chuck Moseley of Portage, Scott Pelath of Michigan City, Vernon Smith of Gary, Dan Stevenson of Highland and Mara Candelaria Reardon of Munster.

Republicans took turns Tuesday deriding Democrats for failing to show up to work. They said 23 bills died because the minority party denied the chamber a two-thirds quorum and a vote. Among them was a cost-of-living adjustment bill for retired public employees and teachers.

“The voices of Hoosier retirees will not be heard tonight,” Rep. Wendy McNamara, R-Mount Vernon, said. “Those voices will lose $41 million in funds because their voices will not be heard tonight.”

Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, was one of the few lawmakers left to represent Northwest Indiana on the House floor. He wouldn’t criticize his fellow region lawmakers.

“They’re doing part of the process,” Soliday said. “I don’t like it. I think it’s a waste of taxpayers’ money, but maybe it’s what we need to get people talking to each other instead of past each other.”

The Democrats said they left Indiana because they were worried Gov. Mitch Daniels would send the Indiana State Police to bring them back to the Statehouse. The governor has denied he would.

They said they shut off their phones Tuesday to avoid any tracking attempts, avoided major highways and sought assurance that Ill. Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, would protect them in case Indiana Republicans came after them.

“Not one person in this room wants to be here,” Moseley said. “We want to be in that Statehouse.”

Many people in the capitol suspected their protest was prompted by a so-called right-to-work bill that cleared a House committee Monday. That bill prompted thousands of union workers to rally in the halls of the Statehouse.

Randy Palmateer, business manager for the Northwestern Indiana Building & Construction Trades Council, said more workers will be bused to Indianapolis from Northwest Indiana to join in the display.

But VanDenburgh said the labor bill’s hearing was “the icing on the cake.” She described the GOP’s combined school proposals as “one massive destruction plan for public education.”

A Republican budget proposal also threatens to take millions of dollars from some Northwest Indiana schools.

“How do you survive?” Brown said. “How does education — traditional education — survive?”

Though individual bills might die, their subjects could surface again as other legislation moving through the General Assembly is amended.

In an official statement, the Democrats said they’d remain in Urbana until the governor and Bosma assure them a list of education and labor bills won’t be called for a vote this session.

“There’s always room for compromise,” Candelaria Reardon said. “And I just think that they have to be willing to do that.”

In his own statement, Bosma said he won’t concede.

“With this list of demands,” Bosma said, “the Democrats should stay in Illinois.”

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