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A protester stands outside the Comfort Suites in Urbana, Illinois, where as many as 38 Illinois House Democrats had been staying while fleeing their state legislature. Seth Perlman/AP

'Fleeing' Democratic politicians to return to suspended Indiana House

Dozens of members of Indiana’s state congress return to duty, ending a weeks-long standoff over Republican anti-union bills.

DEMOCRATIC MEMBERS of Indiana’s state House of Representatives have agreed to return to work – ending a six-week standoff between their party and the Republicans that had seen all political activity in the state grind to a halt.

All but two of the House’s 40 Democrats had literally fled the state six weeks ago, in protest at a Republican legislative programme that included plans to cut funding for public education and prohibiting employees from demanding that their employers cover their union membership fees.

The laws of the state legislature provide that a quorum can only be declared when a certain number of members from each party are present – meaning the House could not convene while so many Democrats were out of the state.

The Democratic members – of which there are 40 in total, while there are 60 Republicans – had holed up in a hotel in Illinois while conducting arm’s-length discussions with their Republican counterparts, which apparently broke new ground last week when the leaders of each party met for face-to-face meetings.

The House’s Republicans agreed to kill off the union subscriptions bill, but have not shelved any other material for now. The impasse had threatened the passage of the state’s budget – which, if not resolved by July 1, would have seen the state’s government simply shut down entirely.

The boycott of the Indiana Democrats kicked off a week after their counterparts from Wisconsin also fled their state to Illinois, trying to stop a similar Republican measure that would essentially have removed the rights of unions to negotiate on their employees’ behalves.

In that case, however, the Republicans exploited a parliamentary loophole to force through their proposals. The laws there are now headed for court.

Additional reporting by AP

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