INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana House Democrats who don’t return to the Capitol next week could be fined $250 a day.

A majority of the House of Representatives’ members agreed to the fines in a voice vote Thursday afternoon. No quorum was present, but chamber rules allow the move to compel members into attendance.

“This is not something we do with pleasure,” Republican Speaker Brian Bosma of Indianapolis said.

But Bosma hopes it will be enough to prompt some Democrats to return so the House will have the two-thirds quorum it needs to do its work. Most Democrats have been staying in the Urbana, Ill., Comfort Suites since Feb. 22, shutting down the House.

The GOP likely needs to lure just six Democrats back to the floor to break the stalemate. But Democratic Rep. Charlie Brown of Gary, who was sent by his caucus to monitor floor action, said the fines mean “absolutely nothing.”

Brown said Bosma and Minority Leader Rep. B. Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, should sit down together, “get down to the nitty gritty” and work out a resolution. They met Wednesday, but with doors open so reporters could watch.

“It sounds good to say, ‘I fine you $250 a day,’ but it’s going to disappear sooner or later,” Brown said.

Fines for missing politicians have been waived historically upon their return, Bosma said earlier this week, but Thursday he told Brown, “I wouldn’t count on it.”

“That is not the intent, to waive these fines,” Bosma said later.

The motion passed says the fines will be collected “by forfeiture of any sum which becomes due and payable to the absent member,” including their per diems and annual salaries.

House Democrats have already said they plan to give up their per diems while they’re away from the Statehouse, but Bosma’s staff said the fines will be collected from future payments.

The fines don’t begin until Monday afternoon, when Bosma is next expected to call for a quorum.

Bosma did not censure the Democrats, another option available to the House Republicans. Thursday morning Bosma described a censure as a “formal, for in perpetuity, ‘shame on you.’” His tone changed later as he said it’s still an option.

“That’s forever in the records of our state history,” Bosma said.

Northwest Indiana lawmakers subject to the fines would include:

Reps. Brown, Mara Candelaria Reardon of Munster, Chet Dobis of Merrillville, 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 Shelli VanDenburgh of Crown Point.


Earlier this week, Brown told reporters that Bosma was a “windbag.” The comment has not been forgotten.

Republican lawmakers gave speeches this week about Democrats’ name-calling. They didn’t mention Brown’s comment, on purpose, until Thursday.

Bosma interrupted Brown to tell him not to expect a waiving of Democrats’ fines, and Brown told him he resented the interruption.

“That’s what started my whole issue with you,” Brown said. “The interruptions, and your behavior.”

Bosma apologized for interrupting. But members of his party also called on Brown to refer to the leader of the House as “Speaker Bosma.” Brown called him “Mr. Bosma.”

Rep. Jeff Espich, R-Uniondale, compared it to using President Obama’s title, even if one doesn’t agree with Obama’s policies.

“He’s still the president,” Espich said. “He deserves that title. Just like Speaker Bosma deserves the title of speaker.”

Brown later said lawmakers use the titles “Mr.” and “Ms.” at the federal level.

“My intent was not to be disrespectful,” Brown said.

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