Speaker of the House Brian Bosma pounded his gavel 6 times to start another legislative session in which nothing could happen.
For the fourteenth straight day, he’d be unable to do much more than take attendance and call on people.
At the day’s first attempted meeting a few hours earlier, the gallery was filled with foreign exchange students, parents of House Republican interns, third graders and an AARP tour group. Along with the rumbles of 200 booing protesters just outside, Bosma said this made the session feel more like a football game.
So, in his second attempt, Bosma did the only thing he could do—turn the floor over to Rep. Terry Goodin, one of the only Democrats in the room, to screams of delight from the protesters sitting cross-legged in front of the chamber’s viewing window.
“Representative Goodin, your fans would like to hear from you,” Bosma said.
Democrats remained absent on the House floor again Monday, preventing the chamber from reaching the 67-member quorum it needs to conduct business.
Their exodus continues at the Comfort Suites hotel in Urbana, Ill., where they’ve been hiding since Feb. 22.
But yesterday, for the first time, each empty seat cost $250. Last week, Republicans voted to charge daily fines on the missing members, one of the few tools they have to counter the quorum-dodging. Democrats have said fines are no deterrent.
Only three Democratic representatives have been present each day. One is Rep. Steve Stemler, D-Jeffersonville, the only representative declining to take part in the boycott. The other two rotate daily — on Monday, Goodin and Rep. Peggy Welch, D-Bloomington, were the party’s designated spokespeople.
Bosma stood on a platform just behind the podium where Goodin declared Democrats would be committed to compromise if Republicans opened a debate on the bills. But he said the current climate was too divisive.
“We won’t pretend we’re making a difference by sitting here and voting ‘no,’” he said. “We want true compromise. We have common ground.”
While Goodin spoke, Bosma rolled a wad of gum over his teeth with his tongue and pecked at his iPhone, blinking hard any time Goodin chastised Republicans.
He continued checking his phone as Welch took the podium.
Welch said she struggles with extemporaneous speaking, so she instead turned to a W.C. Fields quote she found in an e-mail: “There comes a time in the affairs of man when he must take the bull by the tail and face the situation.”
“Sometimes, stuff comes out when you grab that tail that’s not very pleasant,” she said.
Welch noted that many of the Republicans criticizing the walkout have used the same measure themselves when they’ve been in the minority.
Bosma was all smiles and supportive nods as Rep. Eric Turner, R-Marion, said Republicans were ready for debate and compromise, too.
“We will be respectful,” he said, “but only if you’re on the floor of the House.”
Bosma’s patience wore thin as Goodin continued to interject during the meeting, spurting out motions to correct points in another Republican representative’s speech and add himself to the list of representatives facing fines just before Bosma rapped his gavel to close the session.
“You’re present, so you cannot be added to the list of absent members,” Bosma said, closing his eyes and resting his elbows on the podium. “Motion denied. The House will stand adjourned.”
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