— A leading Republican state lawmaker says if House Democrats don't end their boycott and return to the Statehouse from Illinois next week, the legislative session might continue without them. 

"We're getting close to the point where the session is not salvageable in its entirety," House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said Friday. "And that's in great part what the Democrats apparently want." 

If that is the case, Republicans' options include adjourning the session for good, weeks ahead of the April 29 deadline, and moving instead into a special session — something Bosma said has "zero chance" of happening — or finding ways to proceed without the Democrats. 

That, Bosma said, is what could come next. Republicans in the House and Senate would proceed with committee hearings and votes, amendments and more, as if Democrats were present. 

Then, once Democrats return, majority Republicans would vote to waive a broad set of House rules and proceed to final votes on a package of bills that they had prepared. 

"There will come a time when we say, 'OK, forget it, Democrats. We're just going to put this together without you,'" Bosma said. 

Indiana's constitution requires both the House and the Senate to have a two-thirds quorum — or 66 members in the House, and 34 in the Senate — to conduct business. 

Republicans have a 37-13 majority in the Senate, so Democrats have no leverage there. But the Republican majority is 60-40 in the House, which means seven Democrats have to be present for the House to conduct any official business. 

Bosma said House and Senate committees could take public testimony and work on bills on an informal basis. Once the House has enough Democrats present to act, it could vote to waive the usual process and bring bills up for final votes in "expeditious fashion," he said.

That tracks with what Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, told reporters he might do this week. 

Kenley said he could use the version of the House budget bill that won the approval of the House Ways and Means Committee, as the basis for hearings on the state's next two-year spending plan. 

"We've got a lot of people that need to come and talk, plus the public needs to have a chance to testify.We may have to get started."

One Democrat, Rep. Steve Stemler of Jeffersonville, is not participating in the walkout. Most of the others have been holed up at the Comfort Suites hotel in Urbana, Ill., for three weeks. 

They are demanding changes to a set of bills, including one that creates a private school voucher program, one that limits teachers' collective bargaining rights to wages and benefits, and one that would change project labor agreements on public works projects, which now favor union workers. 

Bosma said he and the top-ranking Democrat, House Minority Leader Patrick Bauer of South Bend, have spoken by phone several times in the last few days.

Copyright 2019 Journal Media Group. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.