INDIANAPOLIS | The House Democrats' walkout enters its seventh day today with no end in sight.

Union members continued to gather at the Statehouse Monday, but the missing legislators will keep Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma from having the quorum necessary to convene the House.

The Times, the only Northwest Indiana newspaper reporting all of last week from the Indiana Statehouse on the General Assembly and various protests, has compiled the following questions and answers to bring readers up to speed on what has happened so far and why.

Q: What's the latest?

A: The House Democrats are still in Urbana, Ill. The House is scheduled to convene at 12:30 p.m. region time today but once again there will not be enough representatives in the chamber to take legislative action. State Rep. Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, the Democratic leader, said nothing has changed to make the Democrats want to return.

Q: What do the Democrats want?

A: The Democrats have released a list of 11 House bills they are concerned about. Some of the bills already have been approved by the House and are now in the Senate. Gov. Mitch Daniels signed House Bill 1450, an unemployment insurance fix opposed by Democrats, into law Thursday. Initially Democrats suggested they wanted all the bills on their list killed, but Bauer now says he's willing to negotiate with House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, on a compromise.

Q: So why won't the Republicans negotiate?

A: Bosma said the only place he'll negotiate with the Democrats is in public on the floor of the Indiana House. The speaker said he won't cut a "backroom deal" with Bauer to get the Democrats back. Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels said Thursday, "There's nothing to talk about until they come back to work."

Q: Why can't the House function while the Democrats are gone?

A: The Indiana Constitution requires two-thirds of the representatives, known as a quorum, to be present to take legislative action. Republicans control 60 seats in the 100-member chamber, but 67 members are required to do business and no more than 63 answered the many attendance roll calls last week. Two Democrats have stayed in the chamber to request quorum calls and second the motions. State Rep. Steven Stemler, D-Jeffersonville, a Bosma-appointed committee chairman, also has stayed behind.

Q: How long can this go on?

A: Theoretically, forever. Under state law the General Assembly must adjourn by April 29. If the Democrats stay out that long all pending legislation in the House will die. Gov. Mitch Daniels has vowed to call the legislature into special session "until New Year's Day" if needed to get his legislative agenda enacted. The 2012-13 state budget must be approved by July 1; otherwise, state government will shut down.

Q: Why are unions protesting at the Statehouse?

A: The unions have their own list of 11 bills they want stopped, including a permanent ban on collective bargaining by state employees, a prohibition on project labor agreements for public works projects and limits on teacher collective bargaining rights, among others. According to the unions' daily "Why We Stand" report, they say, "We will not stand by and let out-of-state special interests and big business hijack our state."

Q: Are the Democrats getting paid? Who is paying for their hotel?

A: The House Democrats are being paid their regular salary and daily expenses, known as a per diem. State legislators earn $22,600 a year, plus $155 for every day the legislature is in session, from mid-November until April 29, regardless of whether the House meets. So yesterday all 100 Representatives were paid their $155 per diem even though the House didn't meet and rarely meets on Sundays. The House Democrats have promised to repay their per diem for every day they stay in Illinois. The Indiana Democratic Party is paying for the hotel, though some representatives plan to repay the party.

Q: How swanky is this place they're staying?

A: The Democrats are at the Comfort Suites in Urbana. A room with a king bed and continental breakfast for tonight costs $99. The 86-room hotel has an indoor pool, hot tub and fitness center. It is about one mile north of the main campus of the University of Illinois.

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