— As the standoff that has shut down the Indiana House of Representatives enters its fourth week, both Republicans who control the chamber and Democrats who are boycotting it have decisions to make.

The leader of the Democrats who have holed up in a Comfort Suites hotel in Urbana, Ill., said his party's list of concerns is down to one labor-related bill, and that if Republicans make some concessions on that bill, Democrats are much more likely to come back.

Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma, meanwhile, must determine whether to offer Democrats some of the changes they want or play hardball and attempt to work around the absent party.

Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said he is mapping out a strategy in case Democrats have not returned by the end of this week. That, he said, would involve merging all legislation that Republicans favor into bills awaiting action in the Senate.

"Our alternative will be to leave the calendar where it is, cut the Democrats out of the amendment process and work with the Senate. It's an option that we've discussed, and one that we may have to go to," he said.

Even then, the House would still need Democrats to come back and form a two-thirds quorum in order to concur with those bills and send them to Gov. Mitch Daniels' desk. House Minority Leader Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, said that is why Republicans ought to negotiate.

"We can end this now and get through the session, or just do it another time later," Bauer said.

The two sides do appear to have closed the gap on one issue: a voucher system that would allow families to use public dollars to pay for private school tuition. It is a piece of Daniels' sweeping education reform agenda.

That agenda also includes expanding charter schools; limiting teachers' collective bargaining rights to wages and benefits; developing a data-driven system for evaluating teachers; and then basing their pay on those evaluations.

Republicans say that even before the Democratic boycott started, they intended to limit the scope of the voucher program from families of four earning $100,000 per year or less, as is in the original bill, to families of four earning $61,000 per year or less, as is in an amendment proposed by its author, House Education Committee Chairman Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis.

They are also seeking to cap enrollment at 80,000 students in the first year of the program and 160,000 students in the second year, with no cap beyond that, and ensure that the only families eligible for the full amount — in most cases $4,500 per year — are those that currently qualify for free or reduced lunch.

Democrats say they oppose the bill because it would divert money from already struggling public schools, and that they want a lower cap on the number of students who can enroll. Bauer said he spoke with Bosma about that issue, and the two are close.

As a result, he said, the dispute over House Bill 1003, the voucher bill, "ought to be faded away pretty soon."

Bauer and other Democrats in recent weeks had also mentioned the limitations on teachers' collective bargaining rights among their objections.

That, though, was gone from Bauer's list Monday, and only one item remained: House Bill 1216.

It's a measure Bauer has compared to the "right to work" bill, which would allow workers to opt out of union membership, and which was an original trigger of Democrats' decision to flee the state.

The bill would make changes to project labor agreements, which favor union workers on public works projects by requiring municipalities to negotiate wages and working conditions collectively.

It would also make changes to a pay scale called the "common construction wage." Currently, public works projects valued at less than $150,000 are exempt.

The bill would raise that to $1 million.

The bill's author, Rep. Bill Davis, R-Portland, has agreed to cut that to $500,000.

But Bauer said that would still mean 60 percent of all projects would be exempt from the common construction wage — something he said would drive down the earnings of workers on those projects.

Bauer called the bill "Right to Work II," and said "it eliminates thousands and thousands of union jobs."

He said Bosma would not need to consider a strategy to work around Democrats if his caucus would agree to changes to that measure.

"I think we're very close, and he needs to focus on that one last bill," Bauer said.

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